For the last decade Emma Watson has played the demure, diligent Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. But now she’s embarking on an exciting new chapter in her life and career.
When Emma Watson stood on Platform 9 3/4, about to board the train to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, she never imagined the journey she was about to set off on would be so life-changing. In the ensuing ten years – across seven Harry Potter films – she’s become one of the best-known, most admired stars in a generation, as she’s changed from cute kid to sophisticated starlet. She’s also blossomed professionally, evolving from a wooden amateur to accomplished auteur.
“I think people forget that when we started we were so young – just nine or ten – so we really didn’t know what we were doing,” confesses Emma, blushing as she recalls her first few Harry Potter scenes. “We barely had any acting experience between us and we relied so much on the director to guide us. Sometimes he’d even switch the sound off and, as the camera was rolling, direct us over the take and add the sound in later! We really needed that much guidance.”
Judging by her latest outing in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – the final instalment of J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, which has split into separate films – she’s learned her lessons well over the last decade. It’s a stellar performance, reinforcing that not only is Emma now a veteran actress, at just 20, but she’s also a sassy, sexy glamour puss.
That’s been evident with her modelling makeover for Burberry, the quintessentially British fashion house favoured by Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham, featuring Emma alongside her brother, Alex, banished any notion of her as a prim, or proper, as she toyed with playing the vamp. It’s an experience she found liberating.
“Clothing and costumes are a way of becoming someone completely different. I guess that’s what attracted me to the Burberry campaign so much – just being able to express myself in a different way,” she reveals. “I appreciated people seeing me outside of my role as Hermione and seeing other potentials in me. It’s fun playing around with different sides of your personality; it’s a way of expressing yourself, just like being an actress is.”
“It’s why I’ve tried to play different characters in the photoshoots I’ve done recently, so people could hopefully look at me differently,” adds Emma. “I’m aware that it’s hard for audiences to separate me from my character, because I’m so identified with her, but hopefully by doing this like that people will see a different side of me. Also, I had a great time doing it because I love clothes and fashion.l And they were certainly much nicer to wear that than the awful woolly jumpers and tartan skirts I had to wear in Harry Potter, which made me look very plain and boring!”
In fact, Emma enjoyed the experience so much that when she was approached by People Tree to designing a range of clothes, she leapt at the chance – even offering her services for free. Partly, she admits, it’s because they’re an ethical Fair Trade label.
“For me, fashion has always been something that is fun. But I was also excited by the idea of using fashion as a tool to alleviate poverty. I think Fair Trade is so empowering and makes such a huge difference to people,” she explains. “Also, by being involved, I knew that I could help make a difference.”
“I just designed things that I like and would want to wear,” smiles Emma when quizzed about her input. “I just drew on inspiration frm my own wardrobe, my friends and also vintage pieces. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m planning two more lines for them.”
Emma admits that her appreciation of fashion and how she can influence fans with what she does – and wears – has been a recent revelation.
“It may sound crazy, but it never really occurred to me that people would care about what I was wearing. It really didn’t. It only hit home with the last film,” she confesses. “But now I’m increasingly aware that people really care about what I put on my body. Although I find that a little strange, it’s made me realise that when I’m in the public eye it’s important that I dress because that’s how I’m presenting myself to the rest of the world.”
However, she concedes that growing up in public and the scrutiny that accompanies being sexy, stylish star has been hard to handle. It’s why she tries to keep as low a profile as possible, jealously guarding her private life.
“It’s been so hard going through the most self conscious time of your life – when you’re changing, your body’s changing and you’re trying to get used to the way your look and feel – while the whole world is watching,” admits Emma, sighing involuntarily. “It’s been pretty harrowing at times, especially as I am so intensely self-critical. That’s why I banned myself from reading everything about myself on the Internet.”
“I guess I just have to stop being daunted, or frustrated, by people’s perception of me,” she shrugs. “There’s nothing I can do about it – it will change when it changes – so I just have to do what makes me happy and follow my heart and not think about other’s expectations, because it’s so limiting. People put me in a nice little box – they decide who I am and what I should do – but that’s not how it is.”
She admits that the pressure of being in the spotlight and the public’s perceptions of her – are partly why she decided to flee the UK to attended Brown’s University, in America.
“I was so exciting at the thought of going to University there, being away from all the attention back home, meeting people my own age and just being normal for a bit,” Emma enthuses. “It’s turned out to be everything I hoped it would be because I’ve made some great friends – people I really trust.”
“For my 20th birthday, I threw a party for 80 friends from University and we just danced all night. It was great; I had a fantastic time,” she grins. “It was also a good moment for me, because I realised how far I had some: I’d moved country, gone to University and met some really special people. Best of all though was the fact that not a single photographs from that night turned up in the papers, or on the Internet. That meant so much to me, because it proved that the friends I’ve invited are people I can trust. I feel so grateful and happy about that.”
While studying, Emma flitted backwards and forwards between Brown and Britain to film the two-part, final instalment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now that it’s all over, how does she feel?
“Obviously there’s sadness – there were a few tears on the last day – but there’s also a great sense of relief because playing Hermione has been such a big responsibility,” she admits. “Now it’s over, it feels like a massive weight has been lifted off me! It’s such a relief that I can just be myself – be Emma – again.”
“That’s why I cut my hair,” she reveals. “I’d spent more than half my life being somebody else – that their hairstyle – and I wanted to be Emma and have my hair the way I wanted it. I didn’t realise it, a the time, but it was actually incredibly symbolic having all this hair cut off that people so identified with Hermione. It felt great – it was very liberating – like I was shedding that old skin and starting a fresh, new chapter!”
As for the future, Emma’s less cut and dry about what’s in store, or what she’ll be doing long-term, although she’s adamant that she’ll always act.
“You know, I’m only 20, so I have no idea what I want [to do] with the rest of my life, or even what I will be doing in say, ten years time. I do have my dreams – a vision of what I’d really like my life to look like – but who knows if that will happen.”
“It’s funny, because a lot of my friends are now gearing up to get a job and really push on with their career but I’m at a point where I need to just stop, have a break and take it easy for a bit. I’m very excited by that, and the prospect of just having some normality in my life.”
“The problem though is I’m a workaholic,” adds Emma, laughing. “I’m hugely motivated and determined, so you’ve not seen the end of me, just yet! I’m always going to work hard and always want to act. But I’m also going to try and make sure that I have a bit of fun as well!”