If you have yet to be overly familiar with actress Katherine Waterston, that will soon change. After appearing in Steve Jobs, the English-born American actress has a leading role in one of the most anticipated films of the year, J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – in Irish cinemas this Friday – and the star, who plays Tina Goldstein in the wizarding movie, was only too happy to talk in-depth about her latest role. You’ll be seeing her on the silver screen a lot more in the coming months – she’s just finished filming Ridley Scott’s next chapter in the Alien franchise – but first, on to creatures or ahem, beasts (did you know her favourite is a Pickett?) of an entirely different kind…
How did you react when you found out you’d been cast in the film?
I was thrilled to get the job. First and foremost, I loved the character so much [of Goldstein] and had such a good time exploring her in the auditions. I was so fixated on getting to play this character and just loved her so much that, honestly, the size of this film and what it means to so many people didn’t really enter my mind initially. Then, it slowly dawned on me that I had been invited into this massive pre-existing entity, which was quite an overwhelming realisation. My first memory of the Harry Potter series was my little brother just falling into those books and not resurfacing until he was done. That J.K. Rowling got an entire generation reading is extraordinary – I’m amazed and proud to now be portraying one of this phenomenal writer’s characters.
Can you describe the process of developing your character?
To me, it all feels intuitive. Obviously, there are clues in the script and you search for them and use them as best you can. But I think connecting to a character is like connecting to any human being – either you like them, or you don’t. With Tina, it was her internal struggle that caught my attention. She seemed to totally doubt herself and to suspect that she wasn’t good enough and, yet, simultaneously, she possessed a confidence, a conviction that she could be great. I just found that quality – that seesawing between insecurity and confidence – a condition, I think, that anyone can relate to.
What’s it like then for her to interact with Colin Farrell’s character, Percival Graves?
Graves has the job that Tina, in her wildest dreams, hopes to have one day. He’s respected at work, successful and has authority, skill, and confidence – Tina admires him, she’s in awe of him, maybe even has a little crush on him!
What brings Tina and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) together in the film?
They start to recognize that they’re both outsiders and both a little bit odd, I suppose, and I love that. It’s really tough to be weird until you find other weirdos. Something I think is interesting about the film is that it’s a coming-of-age story about adults. Even though Newt, Tina, Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler) are technically all adults, in their own individual ways they are each a bit stunted, but as they come together – maybe even because they come together – they, finally, begin to come into their own. Most of my scenes were with Eddie, and he’s just a dream. He works so hard, and is so imaginative, intelligent, and generous. Then, when the four of us got together, it was really refreshing. Everybody brings a unique energy, and it was just fun to be thrown together to see what would happen. It’s always great to work with people you know you can play off and with.
How did you find working with director David Yates?
David has such a deep understanding of this world because he’s made four Harry Potter films before this one. Being around him is similar to being around Jo [J.K. Rowling]. Their suspension of disbelief is so committed you get the feeling that they’re right on the edge of believing that this world is real. They’ve explored so much of it, and both have such a strong understanding of it that when you’re around them, that depth of knowledge kind of influences you, rubs off on you, does half the job for you.
Can you talk about working with costume designer Colleen Atwood?
What’s so great about Colleen is that she’s a real collaborator. She comes in with her ideas, and I come in with mine, and we find our way together. I really wanted Tina to wear trousers. That was my idea and something that seemed right to me – that Tina didn’t have much time for herself and because she lost her parents suddenly, she was thrust into this parental role. I thought she maybe couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop, nor did she have the time, nor would she feel comfortable spending any money on herself. So, we started to build this concept together and then Colleen, obviously, developed the clothes.The whole look, we thought, would be something she could’ve found in her parents’ wardrobes and thrown together herself. She doesn’t just put you in clothes that fit well or look good; she really understands the character. It’s detailed, smart work, and I loved everything that she made.
Can you describe a favourite moment on set?
Two things. On one of our first days, we shot a scene just crossing the street into my apartment, and on that day, there was a Model T Ford that had crashed into a fire hydrant. It was just background, but there was this whole storyline going. There was the mechanic there, and the guy whose car it was; smoke coming from the car and the wheels that had been damaged when it hit the fire hydrant – I was so struck by all that detailed work. There was somebody whose job it was to direct that whole thing, to plot it out, stage it, another to cast the driver, the mechanic, another to dress them – all the people it took to create this teeny little background subplot that might never even make it into the film. Perhaps my favorite day on set was a scene with Tina and Newt on a dock. We were on location in an enormous hanger originally used to build zeppelins. It’s the biggest single story building I’ve ever seen in my life and had this incredible energy to it.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is in Irish cinemas this Friday, November 18th.