From her first appearance onscreen in 2007's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it was clear that Evanna Lynch was Luna Lovegood. Since then she's explored roles in TV, film, and theatre, but die-hard fans will always love her first and foremost as Luna. So when I got the chance to chat with her over the weekend at LeakyCon – an annual Harry Potter fan convention, this year held in Dublin – I jumped at the chance to talk all things Potter, from the newest plot revelations to the relentless passion of the fans.
Spoiler alert: She's just as much of a fangirl as the rest of us.
How did you first learn about the Harry Potter series? Aside from being in the films, did you start by reading the books?
Evanna Lynch: I was, like, 8 years old, and I was in a phase of reading The Baby-Sitters Club. Remember them? I was obsessed with being a girl, and I wanted to start a babysitters club even though I was like, 8. [laughs] I was always about girly stuff. Then my mum came home from the library one day and she had Harry Potter, and she said my aunt had said that it was a really good book and that we should all read it. I remember my first reaction just being like, “I don’t want to read about a boy with glasses” – I just had no interest in it, so I ignored it. Then my mum was reading a chapter to my brother at bedtime, and I was in the room, and I was like, “Oh shit, this is good.” So then, when they went to bed, I took that book, and that was it. I just started reading, and I loved it.
I feel like it’s a famous story, how you got involved in the films, and there are also a lot of misconceptions. How did it really happen?
EL: I was a huge fangirl, and I used to look on [Harry Potter fansite] Mugglenet every single day, just scroll through all the news updates. I’d been following it since the early films, I’d followed all the casting announcements, and who was playing who, and I knew Luna was coming up. I’d sent a few letters to the casting agents and I actually got a letter back, saying, “Sorry, you’re not the right nationality for this role, but if there’s a more appropriate part, we’ll contact you.” I knew it was just the kind of letter they sent to people to fob them off.
I saw the open audition announcement on Mugglenet. It was in January 2006, and they said you had to be between the ages of 13 and 16, and I was 14, so I just made it. They didn’t give anything to prepare, obviously. I had that audition – I queued for four hours and when I went in they gave sides [lines given to actors at auditions] for a few minutes, and then promptly took them away. [laughs] They called me three days later and we set up a screen test, which was a week after the actual audition, and then three days after the screen test they told me I got it. It all happened so quickly.
That’s so quick, yeah.
EL: It was crazy, it was less than two weeks from hearing about it to getting the part.
This is going to sound really weird – the other day, I spent my Friday night just watching J.K. Rowling interviews on YouTube for fun. And she said in one interview that the only actor who ever influenced her writing of the character was you. How does that feel?
EL: Oh, it’s fucking crazy.
You embodied the character so well that J.K. Rowling was just like, “OK, I’m just going to write what Evanna would do.”
EL: No, it’s so crazy to me. I heard that, and I was like, [squeals]. That is such a dream, to have that kind of contribution and have that influence. Personally, I will read the books and not hear my voice. I’ll picture Luna as I imagined her, and she’s not exactly like me, and how I did it.
Oh, that’s so weird, so you imagine her differently? Like she’s not you?
EL: Oh, I cried when I watched Order of the Phoenix. It was at the premiere when I saw it for the first time, and I was like, “I’ve ruined Luna!” I was so upset, and it was so awkward, because it was a premiere and everyone was supposed to be so happy, and I felt like I’d...not ruined it, but there were little things that I felt I hadn’t done. My mum was like, “No, shake it off, you have to smile!”
But no, it’s amazing. I never expected to influence J.K. Rowling, of course. It’s really humbling.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this thousands of times, but as a fan, was there any part of the books that you wish you could’ve been a part of or explored more in the films?
EL: Yeah, I wish I could’ve done Luna commentating the Quidditch match, which was originally part of the script. In the first draft of the script I got, it was all there, and then they cut it out. Her commentary was so funny, and to me sport is boring, I just can’t.
I always think to myself, If it was Quidditch, I would definitely be into it, but I probably wouldn’t.
EL: Probably not! After a while, you’re just following balls around a field again. It only really gets exciting when the Seeker comes into it and he or she does their dive. But Luna actually made it funny – that’s what I’m wondering about, the players’ personalities and what drives them. That’s why, of all sports, the one I like most is fighting, like the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]. Because it’s more about their personalities, whereas when it’s a team game, it’s just a blur of green and blobs flying around. So I would’ve liked to do that. I would’ve asked them to put it back in, but I don’t have that kind of power.
So with Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child, there’s been kind of a resurgence in fandom recently. What do you think it is about Harry Potter that keeps it going, even between 2011 and 2016 when everything started happening again?
EL: Rabid hunger from the fans. [laughs] People just not wanting to let go and move on.
The fans have kept it alive – like, these conventions [LeakyCon] have been on the whole time, and the fans are so creative, you know, with the fanfiction and the wizard rock and the fan art that they do. I come to these conventions, and I always go to the merchandise room, because the art they make is amazing, and these people make careers out of it. There are cosplayers who do it professionally, and people constantly speculating and making new things.
I mean, I think J.K. Rowling is going to do whatever she wants when she wants it, but I’m sure she must have been inspired by that passion for the books. I know when I write something, I immediately go and tell all the people closest to me about it, and then I swiftly kill my interest in it, because I’ve told too many people, but she must just love to keep sharing. You know her world is so rich, and you see that through Pottermore and Fantastic Beasts and all the other parts of the Wizarding World. You can tell she’s just excited to share it with people, and I think that [passion from fans] must have inspired her.
There are still those people who'll say, you know, “I wish she’d stop, I wish it had just ended with Deathly Hallows and she would stop saying things on Twitter.” What would your response be to that?
EL: I personally just feel like, you know what, Jo is queen of the Harry Potter world. You may not like it, but you don’t like everything that happens in your own life. You know, your own life follows trajectories that you didn’t plan, so you just have to accept it.
I do understand about some people not accepting Cursed Child, because it’s not pure J.K. Rowling. I know she approved everything, and she was so heavily involved in the creative process, but she didn’t write it. So, for me, the portrayal of Harry is not…right.
Yeah. I went to see it on the first night of previews, before the book came out, so I saw it without any bias. I loved it as, like…
EL: Its own thing.
Yes. And I think it’s an incredible piece of theatre. But in my head I don’t consider it canon.
EL: You don’t slot it in with the rest of the universe. I’m the same. It’s like, it’s speculative, but for me it’s not the real Harry Potter world. It just didn’t feel like Harry to me. I relate to people who have that purist mindset that if it’s from J.K. Rowling’s mind, then it is, but that’s not just her creation, it’s a lot of people’s creations. It’s the same way the films are an amalgamation of so many people’s visions and opinions of the Harry Potter universe, so you don’t have to accept that. That’s why part of me is always a little bit sad that she didn’t write the encyclopaedia.
Yes! I totally agree.
EL: I know she did Pottermore, but I wish she had done the encyclopedia, and I really hope she writes it.
You've been an active part of the fandom for years not just as an actor, but as a fan. Are you able to go to places like the theme parks and the Warner Bros. studios as a fan, or is it a total no-go?
EL: [laughs] I haven’t done that with the Studio Tour. My parents went recently – it’s so funny – I got them tickets, and apparently every tour guide there was told a description of them and was told to show them all the Luna things. I thought that was so cute!
To be honest, I don’t really want to go. I like going to the events and seeing my friends and doing those opening things, but it doesn’t feel the same fun for me. And, in public, I’m very much a shy person. I want to watch people and read my book. So I feel like walking in there is attracting too much attention.
The one thing I love is, sometimes friends of mine have kids who really want to go, and I love going with them and seeing it through their eyes. A lot of them haven’t seen the films, they’re too young and their parents won’t let them, or they haven’t read the books, but even if they haven’t seen that, they still get so excited by the world. That I do love. I was living in LA for five years, so I used to go a lot to the Hollywood one. I always wear a hat – it’s my hair that gives me away.
Yeah. Even if it wasn’t you, if someone was walking around with that hair, people would be like, “Oh my god, she looks like Luna!”
EL: Yeah, so if I just bundle my hair up, usually people will get it, but they won’t really get it until after you’re gone. [laughs]
Last thing – what’s your favourite thing about Harry Potter fans?
EL: I find them really intelligent. I love all the discussions they have. I was in a panel [at LeakyCon] earlier, and it turned into a discussion on house psychology, and I find that really interesting. I find them to be really creative: they take their passion and turn it into something. The fact that they made this wizard rock world that wouldn’t have been there – even J.K. Rowling hadn’t really thought of that. I love how they’re constantly imagining.
They’re just such nice people. I feel like they love this world for all the right reasons, because they relate to these people, and they find solace in these characters, and I understand that. I didn’t enjoy being a teenager – some people really do, they thrive on the drama, but for me it was just constantly being awkward, and then I had the films, so I felt even more detached from my peers. But every time I opened the books, there was some character in there who understood what I was going through and made it seem OK, especially in Luna, but in all the characters.
I think a lot of people feel the same way; that Harry Potter has that sense of home for them, whereas so many series, so many shows and books that are successful, I feel like the characters are sexualised, especially women – they’re not really onscreen unless they’re physically stunning, or attractive in that way. It’s a shame, but that’s what hooks so many people in. Even the shows I watch, those characters are like idols. You look up to them because they have something different, or something special, and even though the Hogwarts students have magic, they’re still very ordinary teenagers. I don’t see them as superhuman, and that’s what I love about them.