Audiences have watched Bonnie Wright since she was 9-years old when she first stepped onto the screen for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Fortunately for her, and for her fans, her character of Ginny Weasley has grown to be a major focus of the film series as well as a major love interest for Harry Potter himself.
She sat down with FSR during the press conference in New York City on the day of the New York premiere and talked to us about growing within that character and growing as an actor. That growth has actually inspired her to go to film school – which I’m trying not to hold against her – but is anyone really surprised that an actor who has been steadily working for a decade and who grew up with film has set her sights on learning the craft for herself?
As Daniel Radcliffe said during the conference, Bonnie Wright has a leg up on me, considering she’s actually been 1) accepted to film school and 2) starts classes in a month, but I’ll pretend not to my bias show through in the interview.
You started acting in these films in 2000, and you’ll be still working on them through 2011. Is that daunting in any way?
I don’t think it’s daunting. We’re going to finish filming the last one in April of next year, and the release date, it won’t come out until 2011. I think I’ll be 20 when we’re done. A nice 11 years spent on these films. I think you realize as well from having this experience – the first few years, that age of your life, no matter what you do it can really affect your whole career because it’s when you start to understand yourself and what you’re interested in.
Have you figured that out?
I think so. I think more lately, applying for University and discovering what I wanted to do has made me look at what this experience has done for me and how it’s redirected me. I think, when you’re nine, the dreams that you have are slightly sort of weird and sort of random. But being within these films has been an inspiration to me. When I was younger and got the part I’d never done any other sort of acting, and I was never one of those kids who are like, “All I want to do is be famous. I want to be an actress.” That was never something I ever wanted. Just from being in these films, it’s been amazing to find what makes me tick and what I love to do.
You’ve said in other interviews that the process opened your eyes to filmmaking. Is that still something you want to pursue?
Yeah. In September I’m going to film school, so that’s what I decided to do for my University choice, so [the movies] couldn’t have directed my life more. I think as well from working within Harry Potter, it’s such a large scale of production but also because we’ve all been there together for so long, and all the crew – we’ve had the pleasure to work with so many people on all the movies. I think the work ethic and the passion that goes behind the filming of it have really made me have a work ethic that I want to continue, and I’ve born a sort of passion toward film.
I think that’s why people always ask why we’re so calm or why we still love it so much. I think it’s just the network we have that’s been surrounding us from the producers to the runners on set to the cameramen. It’s a real family that we’ve had on set.
If you do get to direct one day, what kind of story do you want to tell?
I’ve always loved European cinema and French, the Nouvelle Vague. I do love blockbuster and magical fantasy films, though.
Maybe you can combine the two somehow. A black and white, huge summer blockbuster.
[laughs] No, I just sort of love being able to watch a film and really connecting with the character which I think television does sometimes more than film. They are much more character-based, physically based. They’re not looking at vast highland things like Harry Potter does.
So yeah, just a story that portrays a character – almost like a day in the life which a lot of French films do. Not having a specific climax to a big moral message. It’s more exploring an environment with a character.
Have you talked to David Yates about wanting to direct?
I’ve been talking, obviously he’s really excited that that’s what I’m going to do, to go to film school. When I start, I’m starting in a few weeks on the 7th film, and I’m going to do some work – I’ve already got some work experience with the art department and costume department – but I’m going to do some work with the editors and the cinematographer and the cameramen. So it’s going to be amazing to get first-hand work experience with those people. I’m really looking forward to that.
After working for so long on these films, how are you and your co-stars feeling about what you’ll be leaving behind?
I think it’s a mixture of feelings. I’m trying not to think about the end. [laughs] The same with a lot of us because it’s been such a massive part of our lives, and we’ve all grown very close. I think to finish will be quite strange. At first it might not be weird, but six months later we’ll realize we aren’t coming back for another film. It’ll be a hole that’s left. But I think a lot of us are excited as well. Since Harry Potter takes such a long time to film you can never really – your years are signed away to one project – so it’s going to be great to say that I’m actually free to do what I like and what project I want to do.
In that process, you’ve grown specifically because your character Ginny steps up. What was that experience like for you? Did you find anything discouraging or encouraging?
Definitely. I think by challenging myself and having more of a character and a development. Obviously the character develops through the series, but even just in one movie [Ginny] develops. That’s been amazing to have enough scenes to really grab hold of something, develop the character and let the audience see more of someone that they’ve read about so much in a book. But it hasn’t been discouraging at all.
It’s shown to me what I love about filming, and that’s that moment when you’re on set, that moment from action to cut when you’re completely in the moment. You forget about what surrounds you, and you’re just being her. You’re being someone.
I think that’s why I’m excited to go on to other characters. With acting, it gives you such a fun idea that you can be so many different people, people unlike yourself. I’d love to do something that takes a lot of research. When actors do projects based on the life of someone who existed or someone who is so intense, I’m excited to do a job that you really have to prepare for.
If you could play a different character from this universe, who would it be?
In Harry Potter? I’ve always really loved Maggie Smith’s part as Professor McGonagall. I think she’s got such sharp but elegant grace in her character. She’s so calm, and with her as well, just watching her on set she’s completely immersed the minute she puts on her costume. She’s very much a professor, so I think the idea of the work ethic from all the other actors has definitely inspired me.
You just recently turned 18 – are you excited to finally get to vote?
Yeah! I’ve already voted. In my first election.
It’s interesting to think about something like that considering that audiences have known you since you were 9. Looking back, was there ever a moment when you thought that you’d just rather be a plumber or a teacher or a doctor?
Yeah, so many people have said, “You’ve chosen an easy thing to do then,” and it’s, like, “Well, yeah.” When I was younger, in my family, they’ve all gone to art school and we’ve had a creative background, so I remembered always having big goals in my life. I always wanted to go to University. I always loved to work within a team. I always liked working with people and playing with people, so I think that definitely shows in this film – the collaborative process of film. That’s something that really makes me love it. Looking back at it now, I wouldn’t take any other career path. I wouldn’t become a teacher or a plumber. I’d definitely stick with the acting.
If you could go back to age 8-and-a-half…
Yeah. I don’t know. I think when I was that young, I didn’t know anything about the film industry and knowing now I actually think it’s really helpful that I didn’t want to be [an actress] when I was younger. I didn’t have any expectations. Some children can watch so many things on television and get this idea of fame that makes everything perfect, and it’s all a dream, and you don’t have to work because it’s all given to you.
One final question. Was it jarring for you to grow up simultaneously having experiences on film and in your real life? Experiencing those touchstone moments for yourself as well as for an audience?
It’s been a challenge. We’ve all had to work quite hard to balance our own lives and the filming life. I think I’ve always wanted to never divide those lives and think, “Okay now I’m going to film, and now I’m going to school.” I’ve tried to not compartmentalize things. And, as you say, you experience things yourself so you can channel them into the character. From always wanting to finish my education, it’s made it hard, but it’s also made it easier because I’m not just all about Harry Potter. I’ve got my own group of friends, and my own sense of belonging. This is not everything. It’s just part of it.