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Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch is back on the silver screen, in a new movie released in the US this Friday, February 17th. Best known for her role as Luna Lovegood, Evanna plays the title role in My Name Is Emily, a beautiful story of love, loss, and redemption, directed by Simon Fitzmaurice. In an interview with BUST, the Irish actress talks about drawing confidence from the role of Emily, moving away from Luna, and the ‘bad bitches’ she hopes to play in 2017.

My Name Is Emily follows a young woman, Emily (Evanna Lynch) whose father (Michael Smiley) is institutionalized after the tragic death of her mother. She is placed in a foster home, and when she doesn’t receive a card from her father on her 16th birthday, she sets out on a road trip with her friend Arden (George Webster) to rescue him from the psychiatric ward. Evanna says she immediately connected with the character of Emily, and just had to audition for the role as soon as she read the script.

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“I thought she was so interesting; I loved how fearless she was about expressing herself. She never holds back what she’s feeling or thinking just to please people. I think so much of the time that’s where we encounter pain: when we try to please people, and we ignore what’s actually going on inside of us.” She says she connects to characters that are “boldly authentic” because when she was growing up she struggled to fit in. “I didn’t quite fit anywhere but I told myself that that was not okay, so I suppose I’m always drawn to characters who show me how to be proud of being myself.” 

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My Name Is Emily is a powerful movie that explores who we are when everything we know and love is taken from us; Emily has to find herself after her support network has been stripped away. “The script was unflinching in its exploration of the grief that both Emily and her father are dealing with, and how that changes them irrevocably,” Evanna says. “It wasn’t trying to paint a happy or optimistic picture, it was just showing exactly how they dealt with it and how they were changed by it.”

What makes the movie even more incredible is Simon Fitzmaurice. The award-winning writer and director was diagnosed with ALS after the premiere of his short film The Sound of People at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and he is now completely paralyzed. He wrote and directed My Name Is Emily and communicated with the cast and crew solely through the movement of his eyes, using iris recognition software. Evanna says it was intimidating to work with him at first, but inspiring to be around someone who’d been through so much and had such a passion for life and living. “It was pressure because I knew how important that film was to so many people. Simon had spent 5 years developing it and had to write the fricking thing with his eyes. I very much had a sense of ‘I cannot mess this up, I can’t blow this. I have to give it my all every day’.”

She also felt that interacting with Simon was an important practice in having confidence and conviction in the things she says. “I realized from working with Simon that so much of the time I say things and wait for validation, like a nod or something, before I continue talking. But, because it takes him a long time to type up anything he wants to say, in that time all my doubts and insecurities would flood to the front of my mind. But it got me to stop questioning what I say-- to say something and mean it and stand by it.”

Evanna Lynch is Emily in MY NAME IS EMILY. Photo Courtesy of Monument Releasing

One aspect of her life where Evanna is not lacking conviction is her work as a vegan activist and animal rights advocate. Having been a vegetarian since age 11, she says she believed in the vegan philosophy before she had even heard of it. “I believed that animals are individuals and there’s no God-given right to exploit them or use them,” she says. “I realized that there’s so much brainwashing that goes on when you’re a child; you’re being fed chickens but you’re cuddling with cows in the fields, and your parents say that’s just the way it’s always been.” She got to a point where she realized she could challenge and question these ideas and that spurred her turn to veganism. She even has plans to start a vegan podcast, as she’s noticed the main reason people are reluctant to try it is that they’re not sure how to begin. “There are small things you can do, step-by-step, that make it accessible,” she says, “It took me a while. I didn’t do it overnight and I don’t think anyone should because you’re essentially undoing decades worth of social programming.”

Having worked in London for the Harry Potter films and subsequently moved to the US, working on My Name Is Emily was Evanna’s first time filming in Ireland, her home country. “Personally, I felt I had to move away from home because there was a lot of cynicism around having a job in the arts. People would think that [acting] wasn’t a real viable career option, and there’s a sense that if you aspire to it you must think you’re something special.” That culture made it all the more meaningful to work with other Irish artists “that I knew had had to overcome that kind of thinking and had to see their art as a real job and something that they could throw their all into.” Living in LA for five years also meant that she witnessed from afar the boom in Irish filmmaking in the last few years.“There are so many amazing movies and TV shows coming out of there,” she says, “I think the Oscars last year and again this year was so representative of that-- there’s so much Irish talent. To be part of this small but artistic scene was just eye-opening.” My Name is Emily is also a stunning showcase of Irish musical talent, with a haunting soundtrack featuring songs from James Vincent McMorrow, Liza Flume and Lisa Hannigan.

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While her role in this award-winning indie movie will introduce Evanna to a whole new audience, there is definitely a generation of moviegoers who will always associate her with the role of Luna Lovegood. This doesn’t bother her, however, as she sees that role as a blessing and is grateful for the fact that it provided her with a safety net. “Luna is a character that really inspires me and inspires so many young girls,” she explains, “so I’m glad that I’ll always have that. I think as long as I don’t limit myself, it’s fine. It also gives me a hunger and a drive to challenge people’s expectations and do something that’s completely different.”

And Evanna is already seeking out these new and different roles. In an Instagram post earlier this year, she said, “Dear 2017: this year I would like to play some bad bitches with nice hair. Just putting it out there.” Since she set this intention, she says, roles like that, “women who are unapologetic and have a mission — textured, real women” have already started coming her way. “A director I worked with a few years ago actually reached out to me recently with a script and a character like that, and he said “I really want to workshop this, I know that she’s not complete yet” and that was so cool: that there are [male] directors who recognize that they don’t understand the complexities of the female mind and they want women's input. With the feminist movement that’s happening, there’s definitely more of an effort to include women like that.”

My Name Is Emily opens February 17th, 2017 in New York and LA, with other cities and VOD on February 24th.

Photos via My Name Is Emily

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