Under her SPELL
Katherine Waterston is thrilled to inhabit the beastly world of JK Rowling, no matter which direction it takes her, writes James Wigney
KATHERINE Waterston is as much in the dark about the wizarding world of JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts
movies as the rest of us — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The American actor shot to fame two years ago in the first Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,
playing witch Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, who teams up with Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander to investigate strange and dark magical doings in New York.
But when that film finished, with the two characters beginning what looked like a rather awkward romance, Waterston had no idea what was coming next. Unlike the actors who were in eight films based on Rowling’s best-selling books, which made more than $10.5 billion at the box office, Waterston had no road map of where her or any other of the characters would end up after Fantastic Beasts’ big reveal of Johnny Depp as megalomaniac wizard Gellert Grindelwald.
“We only find out 10 months before the rest of the world and it’s great to get the hot goss before everyone else,” she says. “But it definitely shocked us all where the story is going and it was really thrilling to see how it connects to the Harry Potter
series and it’s got all our imaginations going about where it will go from here.”
But the not knowing, says Waterston, was a help rather than a hindrance for the sequel (the second of a planned five movies) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, which opens this week and introduces a much broader and darker world than its predecessor.
“It’s like real life, right?,” she says. “I suppose you might be influenced to play things a certain way and play out the fate or the future of your character — and we don’t have that temptation because we don’t have a damn clue.”
Thankfully, Waterston could go to the source herself to flesh out any queries she might have had about Tina or the wider wizarding world and the actor remains in awe about the breadth, vision and level of detail that’s swirling around the British author’s brain.
“There is just no end it,” Waterson marvels. “And talking to her about it you can see right away that the entire universe she has invented is vivid and active and complete in her head. It’s uncanny and a pretty cool party trick.
“You can ask her ‘what was third grade like for Tina Goldstein?’ and she would say ‘oh that was a tough year, she fell back in her Dark Arts class’ or whatever. She knows it all and it’s right at her fingertips. I do think that’s palpable and that the audience can feel that this world is as intricate as the world we live in and as detailed, and each individual is as specific and complex as everybody we know in life.” The Crimes Of Grindelwald further broadens Rowling’s world from the largely UKbased Harry Potter movies and the New York of Fantastic Beasts, taking Tina and Newt and a host of new characters to Paris and beyond on the hunt for the escaped Grindelwald.
The new locations got Waterston wondering about the rest of the world and what that might look like. And having spent several months in Sydney filming Ridley Scott’s Alien:
Covenant, it also piqued her curiosity about the terminology Aussie wizards might use.
“You guys have some crazy slang that is all your own so I would hope that some Australian slang would be in there,” she says with a laugh. “You do a lot of abbreviating, too, so maybe instead of Muggles it would just be Mugs?
“JK Rowling sort of observes the culture and works in the cultural differences in the wizarding worlds in these different countries, so hopefully there would be some of that.” In the new film, Depp’s crazyhaired, truth-bending, silvertongued Grindelwald is on a mission to elevate the magical world to what he sees as its rightful place of dominance and fosters an “us and them” mentality to achieve his goal. While director David Yates has rejected any specific comparisons to any real world leaders, calling the film “political with a small p”, Waterson says there are messages that resonate strongly in our bitterly divided modern world.
“I think that call for tolerance is the most important message — or conversely the risk of being intolerant and what that can do,” she says. “And of course our film is hurtling towards the ’30s and ’40s in Europe and we know what happened there in our world. (Rowling) reminds us — what we already know — of the dangers of turning people against each other. And I think it certainly bears repeating and reminding in the world we live in today. There are some really good reasons to try to stop that. It’s idiotic and incredibly destructive.”
In another show of the importance of inclusiveness and tolerance, Rowling has brought further to the fore the relationship of future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, now played as a middle-aged man by a dapper Jude Law, and Grindelwald. The author revealed more than a decade ago that Dumbledore was gay and in love with Grindelwald as a younger man, sparking outrage in some circles. But Waterston believes the fact that storyline can now be included in a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster is a sign of attitudes changing for the better, thanks in part to trailblazers in the entertainment industry.
“Ellen coming out on national TV — that wasn’t something people did every day at that time,” she says. “Those people who took the initial risks and say ‘there
might be backlash but I am going to do this anyway because it’s right’ — I do think that’s what leads to change. “We are well beyond that now. There was some concern I suppose when JK Rowling announced that, but I think for the most part nobody gives a s---. That’s the important message, that it doesn’t matter. All people are created equal and all love is equal. I certainly want all the stories to be told so I welcome that storyline.”
SEE FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD opens tomorrow
“IT’S GOT ALL OUR IMAGINATIONS GOING ABOUT WHERE IT WILL GO FROM HERE”
KATHERINE WATERSTON AND CO-STAR EDDIE REDMAYNE IN FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD