Imelda Staunton: “Work for Your Dream”
As previously reported, we can look forward to seeing Imelda Staunton in several new projects this year. The actor became famous to the Harry Potter generation by bringing to life J.K. Rowling’s Dolores Umbridge, a character who is arguably more of a villain than You-Know-Who. However, Staunton regards her successes as a result of decades of hard work, and unlike Umbridge’s educational decrees, her advice for young actors is one to consider.
Staunton is returning to the small screen in two vastly different roles. In the first British original Apple+ series, Trying, she plays Penny, a social worker who can make or break a young couple’s future by deciding whether they are fit to adopt a child. Her castmates include Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew), who plays Jason, and Esther Smith, who plays Nikki and who may be familiar as Delphi from the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Although the eight-part series follows a middle-class, straight, white couple, who shouldn’t really fear the hostility of the system, it aims to reveal the difficulties of the adoption process. Staunton praised the fact that it is kept lighthearted and told the Telegraph that “I firmly believe if you can make people laugh, you can make people listen.”
If you would prefer to see the BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated actor in something dark and chilling, you can also catch her in the crime series A Confession, which is now available on BritBox for North American audiences. In a recent interview with Tribute, Staunton revealed her method when approaching emotional scenes on-screen:
Focus. You just get yourself into the place and keep yourself to yourself and then you’ve absolutely got to be so prepared in the moment. You can’t be laughing and joking around and then tear up, so the emotional stuff, I just keep quiet. I don’t make anyone else keep quiet, but I absent myself in my head and prepare and think about it the night before. Of course with filming, it’s then done — you could do a very emotional scene in the morning and then in the afternoon you could be driving a car in a scene or you could go home for the afternoon and not work for four days. So you just have to present it the time that it’s needed and then walk away.
The lockdown has caused foreseeable delays in Staunton’s further projects for the moment. Rehearsals on Hello, Dolly! were originally scheduled to begin in June with the musical opening on August 11, but this may be pushed back. Nevertheless, you can still grab your tickets well in advance to see her live in at the Adelphi Theatre in London, hopefully soon.
Staunton may also return to Umbridge’s favored pink, tweed dresses since she has also been cast in the role of Queen Elizabeth II in the fifth and final season of The Crown. However, since the filming of Season 4 is being delayed, we must wait a while more for a release date on that. Staunton has said that she is doing only small bits of research in preparation just yet. Her meticulous and hard work is a habit she has kept since her training years, through Harry Potter, and to this day:
People see someone like me and think: you’ve been in Harry Potter! Yes, but I worked really, really hard for 40 years. I loathe quick fixes and the idea of ‘living your dream’. No, work for your dream – and create it; don’t follow it. Actually, no. It shouldn’t be a dream; it should be a reality. Work for your reality. Dreams are gone in the morning. In this job, you need stamina. Never say the word ‘tired’ to me. I won’t have it!
Fun fact: Staunton learned her discipline early on at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, whose other alumni include Timothy Spall and Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), whose current president is Sir Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart), and which inspired Rowling to come up with its wizarding equivalent. Lesson learned: Sometimes being as strict as Umbridge pays off.