You know her as the loony yet loveable Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter franchise, but in the seven years after the story about the boy who lived came to an end in the big screen, Evanna Lynch has kept busy both in and outside the acting realm. We catch up with the actress, candidly shot by photographer Toby Shaw in his Hastings Studio, to discuss veganism, life after Potter, Catholic guilt and her newly-found passion for theatre.
Obviously, most people recognize you from the Harry Potter films, which wrapped almost seven years ago. Seven being a significant number to the Potter world, how has life after Luna been for you?
It’s been exciting, messy and confusing. I still deeply miss the structure of being part of a series because the responsibility to take initiative and make decisions about your life path constantly is really scary and exhausting. During my Potter years, I was quite passive in my work and I wanted to be true to Luna but I also really badly wanted to be ‘good’ and be liked for it. This urge to satisfy the people scrutinising me has lessened considerably and I’m much more focused on not letting myself down. I’ve learned to take autonomy of my art and my career and I feel much more empowered.
I credit the greatest part of my growth over the last 7 years to my acting teachers and classes that I attended in LA. Before doing that work I felt like I could have been absolutely anybody in a really awful, hollow way. I had no strong sense of who I was or what my worth was outside of being Luna, and yet I no longer felt like Luna. It was a very strange, lonely, unknowable time and I felt nothing was anchoring me to the world. Working with great acting teachers who made me do deep self-introspection and showed me that I already had opinions and convictions and something to say to the world made me grow up and be more assertive in my life and work. I’m no longer walking into rooms looking for someone to tell me who I am, I know who I am without loudly having to assert my presence, and that’s given me the courage to manifest the opportunities I want.
You were a huge fan of Harry Potter even before being cast and it signified a turning point in your career. Looking back what has been the best and worst experience you’ve gotten for the HP world?
The best experience was actually getting to work with my heroes and role modes and be witness to their creative process. I thought the goal with acting was to ‘nail it’ every take and I would practice for hours in the comfort of my bedroom and then go to work and try to perform perfectly. Then I would see the other actors messing around, having a laugh, doing something different, crazier, every take. I learned from watching them that acting was about something far more daring and creative than ‘performing’. My struggle is always to shut off the negative voices in my head that tell me everyone’s judging me, and lean into that messy creative process. The Potter films forced me to overcome my shyness and that was the best thing. I was shy when I was young but not in a happy, content way. I knew I wanted to overcome my crippling sense of inferiority and make my contribution to the arts. I don’t know that I would ever have been forced to come out of myself had I not been put in the spotlight.
In terms of the worst experience, that’s hard to say. ‘Worst’ is not the right word. I think the hardest thing was and is feeling alienated from my peers. I’m in this odd position of having had huge success as a teenager but now being in the midst of working towards my next big goals. I often feel overshadowed by my past success and I watch my friends gradually build to their goals, gradually getting more successful and experienced and I envy that trajectory a little bit.
Did you ever felt like playing Luna was too much or felt overwhelmed by the sudden success? Also, exiting the franchise did you have any fears of being typecast?
I never felt overwhelmed by playing Luna. I felt like I knew exactly what to do in that respect. It wasn’t acting, it was just a beautiful opportunity to play as a character I loved so much and an exercise in channelling her spirit. Playing Luna was a 100% positive experience and I credit David Yates for trusting me with her and giving me so much creative freedom and input. On the other hand, I felt like I was terribly ill-equipped to be a celebrity. The fame part of things was not easy. I was a teenager with acne and self-esteem issues and I vividly remember going to stay at the fanciest hotel and looking at myself in a gilded mirror, feeling like I was too ugly to stay in this room. I’ve come to see that awkwardness and that sense of being ill-fit as a gift, however. It’s why I empathise so much with Luna and why confident social misfits always inspire me. I keenly know the pain of not fitting in and it makes me wish I had a shell I could crawl up into. Luna knows what it feels like to not belong anywhere and yet she embraces that feeling and doesn’t let it dim her spirit. That state of mind serves as a bold statement to me. It’s why I was able to channel her; her message and spirit was far greater than my ego. In terms of being typecast, sure people will do it but it’s up to me to redefine their impression of me and I feel confident in my ability to do that. Being typecast gives me something to work against.
You’ve done quite a bit of theatre, especially this past year. Is it something you’d like to pursue further?
Yes, definitely. You learn so much from doing theatre! Actors don’t often get the chance to act every single day for a consecutive number of weeks and months. I found theatre demanded much more of me than film. My social life fell away and I had to develop a strict routine. Until I did Disco Pigs I didn’t realise what an intense physical discipline theatre is. I was constantly battered and bruised on that play and during rehearsals, I kept getting sick. You give your body to that character for the duration of a play, in a way that isn’t necessary on film, and taking care of your health and wellbeing is a huge part of your job in theatre. Physically, I struggled in rehearsals for Disco Pigs and every day the director would tell me how my biggest priority when I went home in the evening had to be sleep. I would say I enjoy doing film more because there’s new material to be inspired by every day, but theatre is where you refine your craft. I want to do both.
You mention Disco Pigs, which took you to NYC for a while. How was the experience? What was it like being part of this quintessentially Irish play?
I loved it, I love working on Irish material. I haven’t lived there since I was 18 and, to be honest, I didn’t love growing up there but I feel such a strong connection to Irish writing. It’s always full of soul and shame. And the writer, Enda Walsh, has such a crazy, fascinating mind: his material is bizarre and otherworldly while being firmly rooted in grim reality. The experience was an exercise in getting out of my head. The play itself is so full-on, so dynamic and relentless that you don’t have time to think or collect yourself. I discovered on this play that my mind is where I go when I feel threatened or nervous or exposed. So when I am in a challenging situation, I retreat to my mind. It’s quite a common thing among people who’ve had a chequered history with their body but it’s absolutely not a good thing as an actor to have an overactive mind. You just have to fully commit to the madness and let yourself feel your way through instead. I only quite got into that state in the last few months of the play but it was exhilarating and changed how I work.
You are currently based in London with your cat but you called LA home for a bit. Was it hard leaving Ireland? Why did you feel London works best for you as of now?
Well, it wasn’t hard at the time because I didn’t think I was leaving Ireland… I said I’d go to LA for 3 months and have some meetings but then I ended up staying 5 years. Not even because I fell in love with it, more because LA makes you a lot of promises and people are dangerously, beautifully optimistic out there and you get sucked into that mindset of thinking you have to stay or you’ll miss something. Homesickness only set in about a year after I left, when the shininess had worn off and I realised I’d left and couldn’t go back to my comfortable adolescence. I left LA just because I like being closer to my family and my set of best friends in London. Much as you try to deny it, distance takes a toll on relationships. From a professional perspective, I like offbeat, weird dramas that are usually underpaid and independently made and LA doesn’t really prioritise that kind of work.
In the past, you’ve discussed your “struggle” living in LA and comparing yourself to other actors. Now that you are on the other side of the pond, what would your next steps in the entertainment world be? What future projects do you in terms of acting or writing?
I have a new rule to not talk about writing. Talking about it diffuses my enthusiasm for it. I need to spend more time writing than talking and so far I’ve not managed that. In terms of acting, I want to play Lucia Joyce. She’s the only person I’ve connected to deeply in reading over the last few years. People are always making projects about her as she was so fascinating so I hope there’ll be an opportunity to play her. When my friend and director, Simon Fitzmaurice, passed away last year, our last conversations were about working on a project about her as we were both enamoured by her. I regret that we never realised that vision but I hope I can revisit it with somebody else and honour Simon and Lucia that way. It’s difficult to plan an acting career, however. I think the important thing is to keep reading, stay inspired and connected to the stories that compel you to tell them. That way you’ll attract the right projects and people in.
Arguably your main thing now is your podcast, The ChickPeeps, alongside fellow vegan activists Momoko Hill, Robbie Jarvis and Tylor Starr. How did you guys team up for such venture and how do you make it work? Because you’re based in different cities…
We just work over Skype or Zoom, whichever one is not crashing… It’s been a learning curve and we’re about to take a season break but we’ve learned a lot about working as a team and are excited to refresh and improve for season 2.
How did you set out to select the speakers and topics you cover for each episode? Can you give us a taste of what we can expect in the future?
Most of them were people I knew and worked with already. People who were interviewing me but who had their own sanctuary or charity and whom I desperately wanted to ask questions of. I basically just ask myself what I’m curious about as a vegan or what I didn’t know in the beginning as a vegan and then I research and find a guest who’s well versed on that subject and I invite them on. I’m very lucky to be in a position where most vegans want to collaborate with me because I have a platform and they want to get their message out there to the mainstream audience. As I mentioned, we’re taking a season break this summer but I’ve loads of plans for when we come back in September such as raising children vegan, travelling as a vegan, dating as a vegan and learning about animals in entertainment. I thought we would cover the basics of being vegan in season 1 but apparently, we’ve only scratched the surface…
That’s an understatement. You’ve covered everything from who’d be vegan at Hogwarts to whether or not pets can have a vegan diet. What has been the most fascinating thing you’ve learned since starting the podcast?
The honey episode was pretty information packed. I did not appreciate how complicated (and actually how ruthless) bee civilisation is. Also, I just interviewed a man who is doing a “water fast”, which means he’s only drinking water and not brushing his teeth because the idea is that the body can and will look after itself if we let it do its own thing. I suppose that’s what’s known as “breatharianism”. He was on day 10 and is hoping to get to 21 days. His reasons are not aesthetic but spiritual and about overcoming dependences and cravings, and not being controlled by our base urges. I don’t really have a desire to do something like that, and he admitted he had to lie down for most of the day, but he is a really inspiring person because he just refuses to accept the rules society has bequeathed us.
In the past you’ve spoken about your transition from vegetarianism to veganism but how did you make the conscious effort to not only become a vegan but also an activist?
It’s actually much harder to resist becoming an activist when you go vegan. I watched a documentary at the weekend called Dominion and it was so devastating, brutal and horrifying, but all of what’s documented in it is the truth and it’s happening right now, so how can you do nothing? It’s not a movie you could leave and go ‘phew thank god that’s over’. I believe factory farming is the greatest evil on the planet and it’s only allowed to thrive because of ignorance. I’m an activist because I believe most people are vegan at heart but, like me a few years ago, they think veganism is radical, difficult and unpleasant whereas I’ve found going vegan brought much more joy, peace and purpose into my life. I want to help people do that for themselves. It’s not my full-time job but I will always be in this fight for as long as people are killing animals.
Your ChickPeeps colleague Tylor and the Protego Foundation are currently campaigning to make butterbeer vegan, which you have supported. Often, it’s the simplest things that get overlooked. Why do you feel this is important to highlight these issues in the “Wizarding World”?
Well, representation matters for starters. If we don’t continuously ask for these things companies won’t believe there’s a demand for it and — there is. It’s not the most important issue in the world but it’s a detail that will make vegan life that much sweeter, easier and more normal to new vegans. Veganism is not about deprivation and personal sacrifice, it’s about honouring and respecting all forms of life. Not having a vegan option alienates a huge community of Harry Potter fans. It’s just a shame to be left out, you know? Nobody likes that feeling. Universal has always been so kind and accommodating of my vegan lifestyle whenever I visit so I feel sure they will make butterbeer available for other vegans too.
What has been the biggest misconception you’ve faced about vegan activism?
That vegans will judge you for being imperfect. I’ve met a lot of hardcore vegans on my podcast, full-time activists, chefs and bloggers and I used to always get so nervous about having them over to my house because my cat eats meat. Or because I still wear some of my old wool sweaters that I got before I went vegan. I expected to be shamed by these people who I saw as 100% morally pure and perfect. But that has never been the case and instead, I find myself bonding with other activists over how terrible vegan deodorant is and the daily struggle to not smell ‘like a vegan’. I guess I expected to be interrogated and held to an unattainable standard of vegan purity but I’ve found you only meet those people on the internet and they are either vegan-haters or the kind of anti-social, deeply negative vegans who simply don’t know how to get along with other people. In my experience, most vegan activists just love to see the efforts you are making and they want to encourage and inspire you to do more of that. They are the most loving, supportive, inspiring and passionate community. Vegan trolls only really exist under bridges and on the Internet.
I know Twitter may not be your preferred media as per your ChickPeeps bio but there are some gems in there: like your visits to your psychic or your binge-watching of Queer Eye… Can you tell us your current obsessions at the moment in terms of series, movies, books… anything really!
I’m really obsessed with the author Joe Dunthorne. He is the most amazing writer. So funny, original, fresh and weird. He notices such weird, charming, tragic details about people. I loved Submarine and then he released a new book, Adulterants, early this year so at the moment he’s doing a lot of readings in London and I am showing up at every single one of them. I think he might have started to recognise me and think I’m stalking him. I am stalking him. But from a respectful, professional distance.
I’m also listening to this really cool sex podcast called Authentic Sex. I started listening because I’m immature and I wanted to giggle and make fun of somebody speaking unapologetically about very explicit sexy details. , which I absolutely did for the first few episodes but then I couldn’t stop listening and I realised I actually liked it and was learning loads. I have so much Catholic guilt and shame around sex, anything vaguely sexual. I thought I was asexual for a long time and I was quite staunchly so in relationships until I met this one guy and I realised I was actually just repressed… enough about him already. But I am still working on overcoming the Catholic notion that sex is self-indulgent, embarrassing and cringe-worthy, something you do but feel a sense of shame around. It’s been quite radical and liberating to be sitting on the tube in the morning amidst strangers while being talked through the particulars of self-pleasure with a crystal wand. I feel so much glee and curiosity about it. Seems crazy that a podcast could have such an effect but this woman is really normalising sex for me. The only thing is the woman is Australian and so now I speak about sexy things exclusively in this languid, Australian accent, which is probably not very arousing. My Australian accent is getting really good though.
To end on a lighter note, with the resurgence of the HP universe thanks partly to Fantastic Beasts and being a fan as well as a part of the Word, what do you expect to see next from the Wizarding World?
Vegan butterbeer? Honestly, I have no idea and as a fan, I’m just excited to see the universe expanding and the stories delving deeper, into Dumbledore’s past especially. JKR is constantly deepening and texturing the magical world and I love that. There’s no other fantasy series that is quite so immersive. As to future plans, I really don’t know, but if anyone at Warner Bros wants my input, I would not be at all averse to Luna hosting her own magical beasts documentary TV series. Just saying…
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