Emma Watson’s Next Magical Role: Kelsea in “The Queen of the Tearling”
Most actors who find success as part of fantasy franchises, either in movies or on television, tend to try to distance themselves as much as possible from the roles that made them famous for fear of never being seen as anything else. The trio from Harry Potter is a great example – just look at the varied projects Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have taken on since Potter ended: Radcliffe has played a gay poet, Watson a teenage delinquent, Grint a pop star in an animated film. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Thus, I have to say I was quite surprised to learn that Emma Watson had attached herself to another fantasy franchise being adapted from a series of books. Sure, we know that not all fantasy epics are the same, but actors and movie producers sure don’t seem to. When I finally got my hands on a copy of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, I couldn’t wait to see what drew Watson to the project months before the book was even published.
As I mentioned in my review of the book, the most powerful force in the novel is its protagonist, Kelsea Glynn. She’s smart, she’s powerful – it’s easy to see why Watson would want to make the role her own, especially in the age of female-driven science-fiction powerhouses like Divergent and The Hunger Games. But there are a few issues in the book that it’ll be interesting to see how Watson handles.
Playing the Hero
We all know Hermione is awesome, but the plain fact of the matter is that she doesn’t get as much screen time as Harry. Though her Potter role brought her international fame, Watson still hasn’t been subjected to the same scrutiny as costar Daniel Radcliffe. And though she has held a few starring roles herself since her Hermione days, Tearling is going to be a whole new ballgame. Maintaining the same character over the course of three of movies is going to take Watson’s career in a radical direction. I just wonder what it’ll be.
Beyond that, Emma is going to get a crash course in all the fantasy-heroine essentials: riding, hunting, swordsmanship, tree climbing, and more. We’ve already seen Watson play a smart, possessed young woman much like Kelsea, but the extreme physicality of the role will be something new for her. Are you guys ready for a Katniss-Hermione crossover? I am!
More than a bit of attention is paid (mostly by Kelsea herself) to the young queen’s imperfect appearance – her plain looks and somewhat overweight figure. Obviously Emma Watson, a renowned beauty, stands in stark contrast. Will the producers make an effort to dress and make her up to actually look as plain as Kelsea is described? I hope so.
Society puts unaccountable pressure on women to look a certain way, and even smart, powerful women feel the strain at times. Kelsea, who even for her poise and position is still quite young, struggles with these issues just as any young woman today does. It’s absurd that a woman’s appearance would be an issue when she’s got a kingdom to worry about, but that’s the world we (and Kelsea) live in. What’s admirable is that she doesn’t let it stop her from doing anything she decides to. That was an important message to me in reading the book, and one I would be sad to see lost in the transition from book to movie. With Watson coproducing the film, theoretically, she should have some control over how her Kelsea looks. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
A Different Kind of Magic
I don’t want to harp too much on this point because it would contain some major spoilers for the book, but though we’ve seen Watson cast spells before, the magic system in Tearling is vastly different than the one in Potter. Though we all know that You-Know-Who can get down to some bad business with Rowling’s system of spells, there is also a lightheartedness to her magic. Tickling Charms and Jelly-Leg Jinxes Tearling is not.
It’s inevitable that Watson’s performance in this fantasy will draw comparisons to her Hermione days – I know I won’t be able to keep from noting similarities and differences. Though the two are vastly different characters, I wonder if we’ll see a resemblance between the way Watson interprets her magic use.
Kelsea is a book nerd!
This is just an aspect of the book I’m super excited for: Kelsea is a total nerd! She spends more than a bit of time worrying about how to transport her childhood library to the Tearling castle and introduces a radical idea: building a printing press. From the book:
I see this land flowing with books…Widespread literacy. Books everywhere…affordable even for the poor.
Now that’s a dream I can believe in! I hope Kelsea’s book-loving passion gets a nice feature in the film adaptation.
Have you read the book yet? Have you thought about how Emma Watson is going to transform into Kelsea? Let us know your thoughts! You can read our review of the novel here.