NarniaWeb’s Exclusive Interview with Georgie Henley | Transcript
Recorded: April 27, 2020
Here is a partial transcript of Georgie Henley’s recent appearance on Talking Beasts: The Narnia Podcast. (Thanks to Skilletdude)
Glumpuddle: Believe it or not, 2020 marks 15 years since The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie released. Does it feel like 15 years to you?
Georgie: It’s so funny because it feels like so long ago but then also like no time at all has passed. During quarantine, I’ve been going through my photos and memory boxes. It’s so insane to look at pictures from that time. I can remember everything. But wow, such a long time ago.
Yeah, Disney just sent me a screener of the Narnia episode of Prop Culture. It was really fun watching you all react to the props and costumes.
Oh my goodness, that was such an amazing day! I don’t think any of us were prepared for how emotional it was going to be. I actually haven’t seen the show yet. I’m jealous you’ve seen it before me! [laughs] We had such a great day doing that. Once you start talking about something, you remember things you didn’t think you had remembered.
Even though I have a pretty good memory, I was still only 8 years old. Dan, who was the Prop Culture host, is so passionate and so invested in movies. I guess it’s the same with you guys on NarniaWeb, to be so passionate and invested in the books. It was great that he was able to share that with us on the show.
Since playing Lucy, you have continued to act, as well as some writing and directing. Which of your projects would you say you’re the most proud of?
I can genuinely say I’ve never been involved in project I don’t believe in. But in terms of being proud… I feel so lucky to have been Lucy. While we’ve all been in lockdown, the amount of people who have been messaging me about watching ‘Narnia’ as a comfort movie, or an escape from all of this, it makes me feel so lucky to be that for people.
More recently, I was in a movie called The Sisterhood of Night. The message in it is about believing girls and looking at our relationship with social media. The more times goes by, I feel it takes on a new meaning. I have people messaging me saying that they can’t believe it wasn’t made last year.
You portrayed a historical figure in The Spanish Princess and a beloved literary character from Narnia. How does that affect your approach as an actress when you know there are certain expectations?
Luckily with Narnia I was so young that I wasn’t really thinking about it. If I would have gotten the role of Lucy now, I would definitely be more worried. I’m very passionate about literature, and everyone brings their own expectations and imagines the character in their own way. I think it all comes to trusting in your director. If your director has a brilliant vision, and understands the text, the source material, and has the ability to satisfy a lot of people and also bring their own ideas to it, then I think that’s the way.
When I think about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, what a mammoth task in terms of taking this beloved book that so many people have their ideas with, and they want it to be the best that it can be. And you have Andrew Adamson trying to satisfy all these people, and I think he did an amazing job. But there’s always going to be people who would want to change things. You can’t please everyone, and that’s okay.
When it comes to The Spanish Princess, I’m not going to annoy anybody who I’m playing, because they’re all long dead. I’m not going to get a call from someone’s aunt saying, “She wasn’t like that at all.” The Spanish Princess is based on historical books, there’s been a few times with my character in the new series we’ve just finished filming where I’ve gone up to the writers and asked, “This didn’t really happen. You’ve pepped this up a little bit, haven’t you?” And they’re like, “Nope, this happened, yes it’s crazy, but it totally happened.” So it’s been really fun.
When you were cast as Lucy, were you aware of how popular The Chronicles of Narnia books were?
I don’t think I had read the whole series at that point, but I had read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. We’d also even studied it at school. I was very aware. But when I first auditioned I thought it was for a pantomime close by to where I lived. I didn’t know it was a film until about six months in. They did such a good job at hiding it.
The huge distance of going to New Zealand, it felt like this massive leap. I remember me and my mum saying goodbye to my dad, it was so hard. Looking at each other and saying “Okay, we’re really doing this. This is really happening. Let’s do this.” But we were so protected when we were filming. When I think about the premiere of the first movie, there is nothing to prepare you for seeing yourself on the big screen. It truly is the craziest thing. All four of us were really protected, and that’s a good thing because hopefully it meant we were just thinking about the work and doing good acting.
I hadn’t read the whole series, and our executive producer Perry Moore gave me a beautifully bound set of all the Narnia books when I started filming which was so sweet. And when I came back I was used to not seeing my dad, so we made a habit of most nights when he wasn’t working, we would read a chapter of Narnia in bed at night. I think we did the The Silver Chair, then The Last Battle, then we went back to The Magician’s Nephew. I still remember that, it was so special having that time with my dad, and getting tucked up, and dreaming Narnia dreams and fantasy dreams.
You worked with Director Andrew Adamson on Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, and then Michael Apted on The Voyage of Dawn Treader. How would you compare their approaches to directing actors?
The biggest difference is that Andrew liked a lot of takes. He knows what he wants to begin with, and he wants a lot of options to play with in the edit. I thought that was the norm, I was so used to doing that. But with Michael, if it’s more than three takes, there’s a problem. He knows exactly what he wants, explains it to you beforehand, and you talk a lot beforehand about exactly how the two of you want to approach it.
Another thing: Andrew likes to watch at the monitor, since we’d be operating with three cameras at once. But Michael would be standing a meter away from you. He’d be looking at you, watching your face or someone else’s, and then he would go back and watch on the monitor. That was crazy to get used to. But if you can get used to pretending that tennis balls are big lions, you can get used to a director standing a little ways away from you. [laughs]
Here is a question submitted by one of our Knights of NarniaWeb: Darby asks, “How has your acting approach changed as you’ve grown into different phases of your life?”
Everything I know about acting came from just doing it. I’m sure everyone already knows this story, but when I got on camera for the first time on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first thing I did was that I looked straight into the camera because I didn’t realize you couldn’t. I started crying about two hours in to my mum telling her “They keep moving the camera around because I must be messing up. They keep moving it around.” And Andrew had to explain how shots and takes worked because I had no idea.
When you’re acting at different ages, sometimes you can’t help your life taking over a bit. I definitely struggled with my confidence as I’ve gotten older. So much of acting is kind of faking it until your making it, and if you’re not being confident, that can be really difficult.
I think with Dawn Treader–Not that I’m criticizing the writers because I think they made a great movie–but for Lucy’s arc in particular, it was a little difficult to be 14-years old and your uncomfortable in your own skin, and then suddenly someone says, “Oh, you want to be as pretty as your sister.” And that was difficult to play, getting my head around the storylines in my character arc. I was a little less natural in my acting and how that was playing out on a daily basis. And when I look at it now, I see that.
If I’m honest, I have no idea what I’m doing the whole time, I just do my best. I guess what I’m always trying to do is think about what I was doing when I was 8 years old, when I wasn’t as worried, just doing what I was told, asking the questions that needed to be asked, and then just doing it. So often you watch actors on-screen, because they’re worried of how they look, they’re not really feeling those emotions, worried that it does a funny thing to your face. But that’s what human beings are like. And if you get worried about that, it’s not going to be a good performance.
Would you be willing to commit to telling us which of The Chronicles of Narnia movies is your favorite?
Oh my goodness, I don’t know if I can because I have not watched them recently. And your opinion can change because of that…
Well, I watched the first one with my grandma a little while ago. She used to watch it with my grandpa all the time, who’s since passed away. And she said to me she didn’t have anyone to watch ‘Narnia’ with her anymore. And I said, “Okay, I’ll watch it with you.” And I absolutely loved it. I was able to not feel like I was watching myself and just enjoyed it.
But my favorite book is Dawn Treader. It’s a risky format. You get many different adventures in one. It’s like a package, it’s lovely.
… Okay, I’m going to commit on favorite movie. You know what… Lucy was always steadfast in her beliefs. I am going to take a leap and I’m going to say The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Here’s a question from another Knight of NarniaWeb, Roger. As you know, Netflix is making a ‘Narnia’ series. Any chance you’d be a part of that in some way? Maybe as older Lucy since you’re now the right age to play her?
Obviously my sister played the older version of me in the first movie and I think she had just turned 18. I think they’re going to want to start things with a clean slate. The best thing about rebooting something is you get to start from scratch.
But if they asked me, and it was the right thing then I definitely would be open to it. But I don’t think they would ask me. And also, I feel I would be the crotchety grandma in the corner going like, “Well, when we did it…” So, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening with those, I don’t know where they’re starting. But it’s going to be really interesting to see. Netflix is sort of like the leaders of our entertainment industry now, so it’s pretty exciting.
But yeah, my sister. During the filming, Rachel was visiting me on set about two months in, and I still remember all the producers in a little huddle looking over at her and being like, “Oh my gosh, she’s so like Georgie, and she’s the perfect age,” this kind of light bulb moment went on for them. It was so funny. But she deserved it, she was an actor and she had just been accepted into drama school. I remember that so clearly.
So what’s next for you?
Well, I’m working on some writing projects, and I feel really excited because I’m finally at the point where I’m happy to show people and take it to the next level, and have more confidence in it. I’m also really excited for The Spanish Princess to come out. It was a crazy shoot. My character has so many children! I was playing a mother for the first time. Sometimes you would have nine kids on set, all under the age of 9, some babies, some toddlers. And I would look at these 8-year-olds and be like, “Oh my goodness, I was as small as you at one point.” But it’s a really great series and I’m excited about it. For those who liked the first series, they’ll like this second one. My character has the most insane time.
But it’s also definitely scary times for people in our industry, like when we are going to start working again, and when we can, how to keep everyone safe. But I’m lucky I’m working on my writing stuff. So, it’s not too much of a change in that respect.
Listen to this interview here.