There’s a bit of coming full circle with Emma Watson starring in the new live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.” Belle was the kind of strong character the actress admired when she was growing up, and now she gets to play the role that will surely inspire young girls.
Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” film franchise, became enchanted by Belle when she saw the animated version of “Beauty and the Beast” with Paige O’Hara providing the voice for Belle.
“I just immediately resonated with her. I was so young I didn’t even know what I was tapping into, but there was something about that spirit, there was something about that energy that I just knew she was my champion,” Watson says. “I think when I knew I was taking on this role, I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values, that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today.”
To make sure that she was finding the right blend of the original essence of the role brought to life by O’Hara and the new elements she wanted to bring to the role, Watson worked closely with director Bill Condon plus writers Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulus. Her plan for playing Belle was to take what had been done before and expanding on it.
And Watson was ready to fight anyone to make sure that happened. Luckily, she didn’t have to get into any battles, and the work turned out exactly as she had planned.
“In our film she’s actually an activist within her own community. She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to read. Moments like that where you could see her expanding beyond just her own little world and trying to kind of grow it, I loved that,” Watson says.
She wanted her Belle to be the ultimate symbol of the fact that books can be rebellious, empowering and liberating. That they are a means to travel places in the world that a person would never be able to go under other circumstances.
The character also had to have an earnestness about her.
“It’s not easy being an outsider and it’s not easy to pick battles. It’s not easy to try to move and work against a system, to work against the grain, to move against the status quo,” Watson says. “But she does so with kind of this amazing fearlessness. And with the support of her father.
“But really I think it’s something that she weathers on her own. I’m very grateful that this character exists and that I get to bring her to life. It’s fantastic.”
Playing it tough
Elizabeth Banks has played a wide variety of roles from a sassy commentator in “Pitch Perfect” to a fashion icon in “The Hunger Games.” She continues to play different types of roles, this time as with Rita Repulsa in the new version of the “Power Rangers.”
The new Rita is a terrifying alien determined to destroy the planet with only five colorfully clad teenagers standing in her way. She faces them in an outfit that looks like it is one of Victoria’s well-kept secrets.
It’s a big change from the campy version of Rita who terrorized the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on the ‘90s TV series. That came from the script that took a more modern look at the villain.
“She was so campy in the past. I loved the Rita Repulsa in ‘The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ because she’s larger than life and has this crazy laugh,” Banks says. “I wanted to preserve some of that energy in the character, but we also had to deal with what was on the page in front of me.
“I also thought it was important these guys (the Power Rangers) thought they were up against real stakes. That she really was threatening and didn’t give a flying crap about them or humanity.”
One of the commitments Banks made to playing the character was learning an alien language that was created for Rita to speak. Banks laughs and says she only learned the language because she heard co-star Bryan Cranston had learned the language.
It was only later that Banks discovered Cranston had not learned the created language but was only able to deliver his lines phonetically.
Science guy: The Emmy-nominated host, educator, engineer, and curator of curiosity Bill Nye returns to TV with “Bill Nye Saves the World,” a new show that tackles topics from a scientific point of view, dispelling myths and refuting anti-scientific claims. All 13 episodes will premiere April 21 on Netflix.
Sex guy: “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story” will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on April 7. The series tells the story of Playboy magazine’s founder who created one of the most recognizable brands in history. The docuseries combines archival footage, interviews with Jesse Jackson, Gene Simmons and Bill Maher and cinematic re-enactments.