Transcript: “Fantastic Beasts” Press Conference

Transcribed by Sacha Huynen, Jessica Kallmeyer, and Eric Rakestraw

Moderator: The incredible, award-winning director at the helm of Fantastic Beasts, and he also directed the final four Harry Potter blockbusters: David Yates.

[Audience applauds]

Moderator: She is the reason, ultimately, that we are all here.

[Audience laughs]

Moderator: It is the creator of the wizarding world, and that world also changed our world forever. She is a producer on this film, and she is also making her screenwriting debut: J.K. Rowling.

[Audience cheers and claps]

Moderator: It’s such a big deal to be in the room with J.K. Rowling.

[Audience laughs]

J.K. Rowling: If she stays upright.

[Audience laughs]

Moderator: Starring as a courageous and compassionate wizarding world Magizoologist, Newt Scamander, one of the nicest men in show business: Eddie Redmayne.

[Audience cheers and claps]

Moderator: The Oscar-nominated producer of all eight Harry Potter films, which remain the top grossing film franchise of all time (we’ll be handing out money after we’re done)…

[Audience laughs]

Moderator: … of course, he is a producer on Fantastic Beasts: David Heyman.

[Audience cheers and claps]

Moderator: Starring as the smart, determined, and compassionate witch Tina Goldstein, your leading lady: Katherine Waterston.

[Audience cheers and claps]

Moderator: He stars as the mysterious young man Credence Barebone in the film, and he may know more about the Harry Potter universe than anyone on this day (that’s with the exception of one person)…

[Audience laughs]

Moderator: … Ezra Miller.

[Audience cheers and claps]

Moderator: Well, first I want to congratulate everybody and thank you for the film, and it is, again, really fun to be here. I’m going to kick off with a few questions before we go to all of you, and the first question is, of course, for Jo Rowling. Hi!

Jo: Hi.

Moderator: Tell us, please, when you started to think that you wanted to revisit the world of Harry Potter on the big screen, and why did you decide to do the screenplay yourself?

Jo: I knew that Warner Bros. wanted to do something with Fantastic Beasts. They adoptioned it a long time ago, and when I wrote the little book that I wrote for charity, the character of Newt appealed to me. And that’s often happened with the Potterverse. I had some thoughts about what had happened to Newt and who Newt was, and I don’t think at that stage I had pre-imagined writing a screenplay. Then when Warner Bros. came to me and said they did, and I want to do something with Fantastic Beasts, I thought “No, no wait a moment, wait a moment! I better tell them what I’ve got because I wouldn’t want them to get Newt wrong, because I knew I liked Newt, and then before I knew it, I’d actually written it [laughs]. I sat down to write some notes, and then I wrote the story, and then that story became a screenplay. So it was never really a calculated “I think I want to revisit the world.” It came the way these things always do, through the story.

Moderator: With, obviously, doing a screenplay, very different than a novel.

Jo: It’s very different.

Moderator: Did you read books on screenplay writing? Did people help you?

Jo: I did buy a book that I never read.

[Audience laughs]

Jo: It just sat on my desk, and I don’t really know. I think I felt like that was my homework, but I hadn’t actually done my homework. Maybe I ought to just go back and absorb it somehow, by my [unintelligible]. I was very involved with the Potter scripts, and as much as I had script approval and spoke a lot to Steve Kloves about what he was doing so he… I would say that Steve was my tutor on this, and it’s a reason that I was so keen to have him attached to this project because I knew he would be a guide when at 4:00 a.m. if I needed to… I never phoned him at 4:00 a.m. [laughs]

[Audience laughs]

Jo: … but I suppose I could have done. I think he would have been okay with that.

Moderator: You could if you wanted to. I’m just saying.

[Audience laughs]

Jo: What, just to be [unintelligible]? Just to wake him up?

Moderator: He has to take your call. No matter what.

[Audience laughs]

Jo: No, it’s not… no. I wouldn’t do it just because I could. I would have to be pretty desperate to phone at 4:00 a.m.

Moderator: And in all of the Harry Potter films, we, of course, know the characters before we see the film because we’ve read the book. In this particular case, we are meeting these characters for the first time, so I want to ask – and I’ll start with Dan on the end – all of the actors to just tell us a little bit about your character. Tell us a little bit about Jacob Kowalski. Who is he?

Dan Fogler: Wow. I haven’t done this in front of her!

[Audience laughs]

Jo: Be nice.

Dan: Yeah? Oh, geez. So Jacob is back from World War I, and all he wants to do is settle down, open a bakery, and he gets mixed up with these witches and wizards, and it’s a lot like… I equate it to Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or I grew up with Where the Wild Things Are – Max. Bottom gets to go into the forest, play with magical creatures, and he falls in love with Titania, and that’s what she – Jo – does so well. It’s in the zeitgeist already. These characters are iconic, archetypal heroes journeying. I’m the baker from the fairy tale…

[Audience laughs]

Dan: … and that’s him.

Moderator: Alison Sudol.

Alison Sudol: I liked that!

[Audience laughs]

Moderator: Alison Sudol, tell us about Queenie.

Alison: I’m equally nervous. [laughs]

[Audience laughs]

Alison: Queenie is the most delightful human being. She is warmhearted. She is full of love and light. She is so accepting. [laughs] These two rascals walk into their apartment – a criminal and a No-Maj – which is totally not allowed, and she makes them dinner. [laughs]

[Audience laughs]

Alison: She is lovely inside and out, but she also has this ability that makes her particularly special, which is that she reads minds, which… it’s not just reading a person’s immediate thoughts; she is reading a person’s story. She’s reading into them. The more that she tunes in to a person, the more that she sees. She’s this extraordinary empath, and it’s a gift that comes in handy quite a bit in this film but also just has given her a really interesting quality because, while she is so loving and outgoing, she’s always looking out, and she’s always receiving, and that’s actually made her a tiny bit isolated in a certain way. It’s kept her very pure because she’s been protected mainly by her sister, really – Tina. She’s been a lot to [unintelligible], but yeah. She’s a wonderful character I love very much.

Moderator: Eddie, tell us a little bit about Newt Scamander.

Eddie Redmayne: So I play Newt Scamander, self-proclaimed Magizoologist. He attended Hogwarts. He was thrown out under certain questionable circumstances, and he is passionate about creatures. So in the magical world at this period, magical creatures… because sometimes they’re deemed uncontrollable or they have erratic behavior or behavior that wizards can’t necessarily understand, they give away (they could give away) the wizards who [unintelligible] is incredibly compassionate and a loving man, and he loves them and believes that they’re misunderstood. So he has spent the year at the beginning of this film in the field, [unintelligible] and all around the world finding, saving, and learning about magical creatures, and they live, some of them, in his case.

[Audience laughs]

Eddie: But what I love about Newt is, he is not very good with human beings or with wizards. He can’t really… he doesn’t have a particular social capacity, but he is familiarable with his creatures, and when he arrives at the beginning of this film, he arrives in New York. He scrutinizes this landscape as if it were an [unintelligible], but he feels very content in his own skin and doesn’t really feel the need for other people, and so he’s a bit prickly and naughty and not necessarily someone who[m] you’d instantly go [unintelligible]. But through finding these people, these other outsiders – which is what Jo writes so sensationally – is they bring out qualities in each other, and they better themselves through coming together, and that’s what I think of who Newt is.

Moderator:Katherine? What about Tina?

Katherine Waterston: Yeah. Porpentina. [clears throat]

[Audience laughs]

Katherine: I love saying it so… her full name is Porpentina Goldstein, and she’s Queenie’s older sister. They were orphaned as children, and she was the older sister, so [she] had to take on probably very adult decisions she wasn’t quite ready for, and as a result, she is very capable and confident in some ways. And in some arenas, unlike Newt, she thrives on certain aspects of [unintelligible] of her life, but other parts of her are quite stunted because she never had that opportunity to really be a child and explore herself. And so she’s probably… well, before the film started, she was all business and very dedicated to her job because that was the area of her life that worked. But right before the beginning of the film, she’s been demoted at work. So when you first meet her, she’s just been thrown for a loop, and she’s trying to stabilize her life a little bit. I just love so many things about her. I love that she’s not very good at self-promotion. So she’s very capable, but nobody really seems to understand how capable she is. She’s not good at selling herself, which I really related to because that’s something that’s so required as an actor and something I’ve just been always terribly lousy at and so yeah, it’s the kind of thing I think of the actor experience of it’s… we’re very good in the shower.

[Audience laughs]

Katherine: Doing lines, doing auditions, but it comes out all wrong. So throughout the process of the film and the support with this group that she comes together with, she gets her groove back. Which obviously we’ll see what Jo has got in store for her if she does actually get her groove back in the coming films.

Moderator: A few moments ago I realized I was standing here, and I might be covering up Ezra Miller, and the Internet would kill me for that, so…

[Audience laughs]

Moderator: Ezra, tell us about Credence.

Ezra Miller: Sure, I guess you could say Credence is the aged child of violence. He’s been partially in a foster home where he still lives, and in a community where [unintelligible].

Moderator: It’s heartbreak. [unintelligible] Okay, we’re going to open it up to questions on the floor, and I’m not calling on people. How is this going to work? You guys will do it? Okay.

Audience member 1: Hi. Nina. We wanted to start with you [unintelligible]. This is a question for you, Ms. Rowling. You manage, once again, to stitch up the stories so full of good motions, and I wonder how going to a different time… if you actually had the secret question yourself?

[Audience and Jo laugh]

Jo: That’s a really kind thing to say. You never know you’re doing it until it’s done. You never… I don’t yet know what the reaction to this movie will be. I am proud of it. That’s the most you can say as a creator. I think we’ve all been very proud of what we’ve done together, and if you can say that, you can say anything. I would love for everyone else to love it as much as we do, but the sad truth is, the boring answer is, it’s partly about inspiration and partly about hard work. That’s it, always.

Audience member 2: Ms. Rowling, what would be the hardest decision? To jump on and create a brand new universe or to not keep all of those Harry Potter fans [unintelligible]? What would be harder?

Jo: Sorry, I’m not sure I understood the question. Would it be harder to create a new universe?

Audience member 2: Or not keep the fans.

Jo: Well, I’ve been aware since the end of Harry Potter that there was still a huge hunger for more, and I think it would be easy to say that I’ll just keep producing. But I never was that person. I planned certain books, I knew exactly what I wanted to write, and that story was finished. But as I said at the start of this conference, I always had some ideas about Newt [since] I was intrigued by Newt, and the truth is, when I was asked, “Will you write more?” at the back of my mind was Newt. I thought, “Well, maybe that, one day.” And so here we are, and I think that’s the best way. This is what I really, really wanted to write. This hasn’t been created in response to a need or a want that I could write more. This is being created because this is something that I really wanted to write, and I hope that when people see the movie, they will understand that it corralled to certain things that are very important to me, and I want the world to know that.

Audience member 3: J.K. Rowling, Nick Drake from [unintelligible]. The film starts with Newt coming from London to New York, and I think what we’re most curious about is when more audiences are going to get to see Cursed Child and when that will come.

[Audience laughs]

Audience member 3: And if you have anything else up your sleeve for the stage; will we see Fantastic Beasts on the stage one day or any other property?

[Audience laughs]

Jo: There are no plans to put Fantastic Beasts on stage. Let us do the movies.

[Audience and Jo laugh]

Jo: Cursed Child we do very much hope will come to Broadway, but I have no dates to tell you yet but certainly we hope so. We hope it’s going to come to Broadway.

Audience member 4: Hi. It’s been confirmed that Dumbledore is in the sequel. I’m curious: In that movie, will he be portrayed as openly gay, and will you explore his romantic relationship with Grindelwald?

Jo: Well.

[Audience laughs]

Jo: No, seriously. I’m very comfortable with the question. I can’t tell you everything I would like to say because this is – obviously – a five-part story, so there’s lots to unpack in that relationship. I will say that you will see Dumbledore as a younger man and quite a troubled man. Because he wasn’t always the sage. He was always very clever, and he was what… we’ll see what I think is an informative period of his life. As far as his sexuality is concerned, watch this space.

Audience member 5: Hi. Leading up to the last question… this is a two-part question. First one is for Jo and the Davids. How did you evolve into creating five movies?

Jo: How did I…?

Audience member 5: And the second question is – sorry – what was all the actors’ initial gut reactions to hearing you say “five movies”?

[Audience laughs]

Jo: I think I’m going to let the Davids talk a bit. I seem to be talking a lot. Davids, do your thing.

[Audience laughs]

David Yates: So the five-movie thing, Jo started with the first screenplay, and developing the first screenplay was a wonderful experience for us because the material was pouring out of Jo; but it was tough as well. It’s a tough process, writing a screenplay, and there was a period I think when we were thinking whether or not it was going to be more than one screenplay, but it was a process of…

Jo: I think we always knew it was going to be a trilogy but then [unintelligible] writing and writing.

[Audience laughs]

David Yates: So then toward the end of that first script, she said, “Yes, we’ll write all three of them,” and then I noticed she’d been writing two. Suddenly, the works [were] pouring out, and so it was Jo. She said, “I’ve got five stories here.” So it’s her fault, really. [laughs] To take this ambitious narrative across five movies.

Eddie: I would say, for us, when we found that evening – which was at the fan cast around the world – so much about this process is so top secret that it’s top secret to us. Our scripts were sent in safes at the end of the day. But all for a reason, which we understand, which is there is such an appetite for the world and the universe and the stories that Jo creates, and it’s in this world of so few surprises… it’s wonderful to try [to] keep those secrets. But it’s quite embarrassing because I have a fear of silence, and when we were doing this general chat, there was a question [unintelligible] as we were all on stage, and I was just filling the silence with absolute gobbledygook, and David is going, “Hey, shh, shh, shh, Jo is here!”

[Audience laughs]

Eddie: [unintelligible] and when they announced it was five, it was absolutely a shock to us but such excitement because when you work with J.K. Rowling, you know that her passion is her characters, and she is fiercely protective of her characters, and when you are given the responsibility of representing one of those, you feel so well protected. Because it’s almost like playing a real person because you have all of the resources and all of the imagination of Jo to work with. So actually, it was shocking and very exciting at the same time.

Audience member 6: I’m from [unintelligible], and I have a couple of questions for you: first, of course, after the Potter books, the movies started to [be] experience[d] in other mediums; [unintelligible], the play, now screenplay, was it a conscious decision of you to stay away from the program and start experimenting [unintelligible]? And a more general question, what do you think now when you imagine the impact your stories have had on the people of all ages in the world?

Jo: To take the second question first, if I am very honest with you, it is an enormous honor to have anyone, one individual, say to you [that] your work has been a place of refuge or it has been my saving or it helped me make sense of something. I have often talked that it made sense for [unintelligible], which is unsurprising because the Potter books were really largely about that. Having said that, I try not to focus too much on what other people think about the world. It is healthy to be interested in what others think because you learn from what people think, but ultimately, you have to be true to what you want to do, you want to produce. I think it is a mistake almost to be focused or driven as it were. The first part of your question, novels remain my first love. I am still writing novels. I am. This is why I am so tired. I am writing a lot of other things. So novels are my first love, but ultimately, for all the tricky bits, if I had not enjoyed writing the first one so much, I would not have said I would keep writing.

Audience Member 7: I am a freelancer for [unintelligible], so I am going to [unintelligible] carefully, but I was wondering going forward, you have obviously brought the lore that we learned in the Harry Potter series into the Fantastic Beasts series. And I wonder how that is going to factor in going forward. Especially when it comes to the Lestrange family.

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: Interesting question.

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: I am understood to not say too much, so I would like to be as discreet as possible. David? Katherine?

[Everyone laughs]

David Heyman: I have read the second script, and it is beyond exciting. And I think the only thing that I can say is that the connected tissue that you have seen in this film is just the beginning. I’m looking at Jo because she can tell me if I’m wrong. As the story unfolds the connected tissue to the Potter, to what we know and have seen and have read in seven books and eight films will become more explicit. And I think what’s so wonderful about this film is that it can stand on its own. You don’t have to have read a single Harry Potter book or seen a single Harry Potter film to enjoy it. Yet if you have, it’s a wonderful, additional experience of this story. As you continue, that ability to watch without having seen or read a Potter will remain; you’ll enjoy it; but I think you will enjoy it in a completely different way than with the experience of having read and seen the Potter films and books.

Jo: I’m not a dragon. I’ve told these actors quite a lot.

Kat Miller: Hi, guys. Kat from MuggleNet. We did see the movie the other night, and speaking for a lot of the fandom, it’s amazing. We loved it. They are going to love it, too, so rest assured. My question is for the actors: So many of you have worked with Potter talent. Ezra and Eddie worked with Emma, and Alison with Jason [Isaacs]. Did you hear from them or talk to them once you were cast, and if you did, what did they say to you?

Ezra: Yes, Emma was the first person I called. I think usually if you know someone who has worked with anyone who[m] you’re about to work with, it seems rational to check in and find out what you’re wondering into. Fortunately, when I called in I was given great news, and she told me what a magical experience it was for her. Obviously in an enormous and different way for her in the context of her life, but particularly, she tried to prepare me for the wonder of David Yates and helping me understand that. I asked her, I was like, “I met him; he seems so kind and calm, but when you start shooting, that must all fall apart, and then you’re yelling at the department heads to get the job done right.” And she was like, “Actually, Ezra, no, he’ll remain that calm through the entire production.” Which is true and an amazing thing.

Eddie: I remember having a conversation with Ralph Fiennes soon after I’d been cast, and similarly, he was talking about David and saying astonishing things for the scale of movies if you’re directing a film of this size. And interestingly, frankly, we’re all different partners, and you’re having to guide this [unintelligible], and he said [that] what is astonishing for all the different partners that he’s having to juggle, he has the most astonishing idea for actors as in he’s seeing everything, and if you look at his TV work and all of his work on the Potters, that’s absolutely clear. But what’s astonishing to me is that amidst the scale, he managed to make it feel like me immediately. That sounds ridiculous, but it genuinely did seem like he had seen every answer to what we were doing. Wonderful.

Audience member 8: Hi. Erin from [unintelligible]. I have a question for J.K. How did you decide which beasts you wanted to include in the movie, and then how involved were you in the design of the pictures?

Jo: The beasts were entrusted to me because I think there were a couple [of] beasts that were always in the movie, and then we swapped a couple as we went just because we thought it would make it more interesting. There were some escapades we worked in. So we swapped in some of the beasts, just better. I don’t want to say too much, but I think everyone could want the Murtlap Arthur. I love him. We all want him. As far as the design is concerned, I was involved, and I saw everything with the most extraordinary creative team who’ve done such beautiful work on the screen. It has been amazing, yes.

Audience member 9: Hi, this is [unintelligible]. I have a question for J.K. Rowling. You were very vocal yesterday, Jo, about your feeling about the election of Donald Trump, and I wanted to talk a little bit more about how your feelings about that election relate to some of the themes in Fantastic Beasts and also how [unintelligible].

Jo: I think I don’t want to say any more specifically about yesterday because we’re here for the movie that we’ve all worked so hard on, and I want to like to talk about that. And I think today might be a day to concentrate on some good things, just putting some good things out into the world. As far as themes are concerned, obviously, this story was conceived a few years ago, so I can’t make any direct relationship to anything that happened yesterday. But I will say that this film shows how fun the five actors on the stage are playing five characters who were drawn into a situation that none of them expected. And as often happened in the Potterverse, they’re going to have to make some choices about how they deal with something that you glimpse for the first time and that obviously could become a significant factor going forward. And if you have read the Potter books, you’ll know that this period in history was threatened to become very distorted, so you’ll have heard of the rise of a very dark force. But as I say, I conceived the story a few years ago, and it was partly informed by what I see as a rise of populism around the world, but I can’t say in connection about yesterday because as I say, I have had this story a long time.

Audience member 10: I am [unintelligible] with [unintelligible].net. This is for all of you: Regardless of role played in creating Fantastic Beasts, whether you’re an actor, producer, director, or writer, how much fun was it working in this multi-dimensional world where one second you’re in 1920s New York and the next second you’re in a suitcase?

Eddie: It was amazing. It was so much fun. What was most wonderful is that so much of this has been built. I’ve a pretty shitty imagination, and what was so wonderful, I thought it was going to be a huge [unintelligible], but the reality was that a lot of New York was built in Watford, just outside of London. There were cars brought up from here from the period. There was smoke that was rising from the streets. In fact, it was a sensory overload, but then beyond that, working with the creatures, there’s the freedom to play in rehearsal and work out what we needed. So sometimes we had some puppeteers who’ve worked on Warhorse create a huge three-man puppet for the Erumpent. We had at times not quite animatronic but really grisly, disgusting things for the Murtlap. There were moments when you had to access your inner kid, and I loved every single moment of that.

Dan: It’s like being Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. We all got a golden ticket, man. It’s like winning the lottery.

Alison: Also, everybody… because obviously these three [Heyman, Rowling, and Yates] are such extraordinary people, and so in addition to bringing together the most imaginative and talented crew as they could, everybody has to be competent because if you’re not, then just one bad apple can spoil the bunch. So you just felt safe enough to play and to take risks, and you felt like everybody was in it with you, and there was just this beautiful mood on set, so it actually felt like a magical universe to walk into. You came in, and you felt like, “Okay, today we’re living in a dream.” That influenced everything. I think that there’s a tremendous amount of heart and soul in this film, and it’s because we all were allowed to feel the amount of love that we could. We didn’t have to protect ourselves on the set, which is a really beautiful thing.

Audience member 11: [unintelligible] from AFP. A question for J.K.: I was just wondering, I heard that you went through several drafts of the screenplay, and some of it [was] very dark. I was just wondering …

Jo: One of [the drafts] was really dark. There was a lot of stuff in the sewers.

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: I don’t know what was going on in my life at that moment. I just remember David [Yates] saying, “This is very dark.” He’s never… everything everyone has been saying about David is so true. He’s so kind and so measured. “This is a very dark draft… you need to lighten up a little.”

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: So yes, we went through a lot of drafts, but that actually is always my process. This is new, the screenwriting, I tend to generate a lot of material when I get on a roll. And so some of the ideas and some of those drafts I’m sure will be in the movie. Following the movie set just seems to be hard work, and I just keep generating a lot of material.

Audience member 12: Hi, Alex from People Magazine. I wanted to ask a two-part question. Ms. Rowling, can you talk about the pressures of the fan expectation of going back into the Potter universe and then for the actors as well, the pressures of fans being so excited that it’s coming and living up to those? Can you talk a little about the fan reactions so far that you’ve gotten?

Jo: Well, no one’s seen the movie yet, so the fan reaction that I’ve seen has spanned a lot of different responses. I suppose I can’t wait for people to see it. I really can’t. They’re very powerful, and this is just the beginning. It’s a five-part movie with rich characters coming next.

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: Why are you laughing at that? Well, I know what’s coming, so this is Chapter 1, and I think people will like what’s coming. I hope so. I’m not going down the sewers, though.

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: I read between the lines. There’ll be a remark if you spend a lot of time in the sewers. And then everyone else from this team can answer your other question.

Alison: Well, nobody knows our characters yet, so that’s a little bit of a welcome break in that we do know this is such a beloved world, and you’ve created these characters that we fell in love with in the Potter books, and we all have a very good understanding of who they were before the movies came out. And thankfully, they were brilliantly cast, and so we were all relieved. But I think for this movie, nobody knows our characters yet, so you don’t have an idea of them, but I think we’ve all seen, fans have been really welcoming and really lovely to us, which is great because we’re the new kids, and you never know. When somebody loves something so much… say somebody makes a record, and you’re like, “I love that album! Don’t make any more. Make some more. Don’t make any more.” You’ve never been able to say, “Keep going,” and you’re like, “What am I supposed to do?” But there’s this real warmth and hunger, as you said, for more. We’re really excited to share these characters, but we all loved it so much to do this.

Katherine: After about five or six people said, “Are you all right?” I know this is just how they greet each other in England in the morning.

[Everyone laughs]

Ezra: I always get really defensive: “Yeah, why?”

[Everyone laughs]

Eddie: To add to what Alison said, we were all such fans of the books.

Jo: There’s a certain glory in writing a standalone novel where you can just say anything you want. Now I’m back in top secret territory again. But as far as reassurance goes, I think we’ve done the very best job we can, and I certainly I told a story I really wanted to tell, and I can’t think of any better reason to tell a story. And I hope that people love it.

Audience member 13: Can you talk a little bit about the importance of friendship in your stories? How you come from this unforgettable trio in the Harry Potter [series] to this quartet that we have now? And also how your characters seem to be outside, this unlikely hero?

Jo: We definitely do have an unlikely hero in Newt, who goes to New York and in some sense is a separate man, a bit drawn to complaining, as we all do in life, that he wasn’t intended to be a part of [it]. And he’s very much an outsider at this point. Ss Eddie says so truly, Newt isn’t really a guy who has a lot of friends. He’s very British.

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: He needed to go to America to be taught that people were likable.

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: So Newt is not really a people guy. He’s much more comfortable with things that are spiky and fine, and he meets his antithesis in Jacob Kowalski, who is the most naturally likable guy but who doesn’t really realize what he’s got. Jacob doesn’t really think he’s a big deal. So that was a very interesting idea, and that’s the basis for our friendships in this. It’s a quartet rather than a trio, which was fun to write. It’s fun to have two big female roles as well, and I’ve been enjoying that. And I enjoyed writing sisters. I’m one of a pair of sisters. I won’t say too much more because I want to be able to go home unscathed.

[Everyone laughs]

Moderator: Don’t shoot the messenger, but this is the last question.

Audience member 14: [unintelligible] from the New York Times syndicate. Two questions: One, your story is just as magical to people as what you write. Just say a few words for people who are trying to get into writing and facing hard times. And second, if you can just give us a glimpse into your writing process. Is it mornings or late nights, or how do you do it?

Jo: As far as writing is concerned, I need to do it. I feel strange if I don’t write. Clearly, I don’t need to write anymore, and I love it so much it would feel like almost some sort of psychic amputation if I didn’t do it. So basically, I have to write. As far as hard times are concerned, I never forget how incredibly fortunate I am. Genuinely, I get up every day, and I think, “I do the thing I love. I have a wonderful family. I’m the luckiest person I know,” and I would wish the same for everyone who is out there working hard and trying to write, which is tricky for all of us, no matter who we are. And my writing process… I will say that we flew out here yesterday evening. I can write anywhere at any time, and I think I served quite a hard apprenticeship as a lonely parent when I really decided I was going to finish that first book and try. I can write with the TV on the background. I can write half-answering my kids’ questions. I have written a surprising amount of one chapter actually on the lavatory.

[Everyone laughs]

Jo: Essentially the only place I can get time for peace. And last night I was in a bleak mood boarding the plane, and I thought, “I need to work.” So I got out the second screenplay and did some work on that, and it made me feel a whole lot better. So I can write anywhere, any time.