It took the magic of the “Harry Potter” films to transform Emma Watson from a schoolgirl into an actress ready for the next big challenge.
The Room of Requirement provides this preamble: there are some soft SPOILERS AHEAD, so unless you have a Time Turner handy, you might want to come back after you’ve seen “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” for Watson’s exit interview as she moves on from Hogwarts.
“In a way this one was incredibly challenging for me,” says Watson of her final turn as the well-studied witch Hermione Granger, a role she’s filled since she was nine years old. “It really pushed me as an actress, but at the same time I was able to use a lot of my own genuine emotion that I felt about loss and all of it coming to an end. I was able to bring how I was feeling to the role.”
Watson’s emotions came to a specific head during a climactic scene she shared with co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, she says. “The scene where we stand on the bridge off to battle and before we flash forward, I remember just really feeling exactly how I guess Hermione would be feeling – just sort of like, 'Wow. It's all coming to an end. Look at all we've achieved,'” she reveals. “The set was actually built looking out over Leavesden Studios, which is where I grew up, essentially – I spent the last 12 years there. So yeah, not much acting required, really! It was all just sort of right all there for me.”
The 21-year-old actress says the final two adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s spellbinding saga were the films that solidified her intent to remain an actress, even as she pursues a degree studying at Brown and Oxford. “The last two really stand apart from all the rest,” says Watson. “The quality is amazing, and the role and the depth – I guess how much darker they get really gave me a chance to stretch myself as an actress and really feel like I was an actress and like I was acting. The first however-many years, I didn't actually feel as though I was doing much acting at all. So, yeah, it's nice – I feel like I can say that I'm an actress and really believe in that.”
“I went from being a nine-year-old school girl to a girl having a job, and I've learned how to be an actress and how films are made,” she says. “I've always had a strong sense of who I am, I guess, but it's nice coming through this feeling like I still managed to maintain my own sense of identity away from something that potentially could've been overwhelming. So I guess that I'm glad that I have that. I was quite a stubborn young girl, I guess.”
Though she emerged from the experience with a strong sense of self, Watson says she shares several traits in common with Hermione, including “an earnestness, an eagerness to please and do the right thing – I'm terrified of ever getting into trouble. I'm very heady in the same way that she is, kind of constantly thinking three or four moves ahead. I try and intellectualize a lot, which she does as well, obviously. She's very determined. I am as well. I like to think that I'm a bit of a feminist in the same way as she is, and I will speak my mind in the same way that she does. It's hard to say, really – I feel so much of me went into her and so much of her went into me that I can't really differentiate too much anymore.”
Now she starts at the threshold of a career beyond the phenomenal franchise, Watson finds herself uniquely energized. “Change is always scary, but I feel like I'm entering a new chapter and getting a fresh start,” she says. “There's something really exciting about that."
And she found a harmonious parallel between entering her post-Potter phase and the final scene she shot as Hermione. “The last shot we did was kind of a strange moment where we dive into the fireplace in the Ministry of Magic – It's actually in part one, not part two,” she reveals. “And so Dan, Rupert and I sort of one-by-one jumped onto these blue safety mats, basically. That was the shot, that was it, and it seemed kind of like a strange one to go out on, but actually [dirtector] David Yates made the point that we were leaping into the unknown. It was kind of a perfect metaphor for what we were all about to go into.”