Leaving Luna: Evanna Lynch on living the LA life
Evanna Lynch has moved on from the Harry Potter movies to become an LA-based, yoga-teaching actor and a vegan – except when she’s home in Ireland, because her mum’s cakes are too nice
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The first time I met Evanna Lynch was on a January morning in 2006. Warner Brothers was holding an open casting call in London for the role of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter film series. Some 15,000 girls were auditioned, and among the lines of excited and sleep-deprived wannabe Potter actors, Lynch was far down in the queue, huddled among the crowd.
Sent to find some Irish kids heading to the auditions, I came across Lynch – tiny, quiet, slightly detached, and to be perfectly honest, odd. She spent too much time pondering my vox-pop questions, so getting frustrated, I moved on, drawing a line through her name on my notepad.
Three weeks later she got the role, and my blood ran as cold as Voldemort’s when I saw her name in the papers. I had disregarded her and missed the scoop of being the only journalist who interviewed her before she even bagged the gig. I believe that is what one calls a bit of a facepalm.
Seven years later, Lynch is sitting upstairs in the wood-panelled Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. I am too embarrassed to tell her the story. I’m not sure how she’d take it, probably not with a slap of the thigh and a hearty laugh. Lynch is demure, serious, considered. The away-with-the-fairies disposition that led JK Rowling to describe Lynch as “perfectly cast . . . she is Luna”, has been replaced with a contemplative Los Angeles gaze. She reminds me a little of Saoirse Ronan’s Briony in Atonement, without the evilness.
Lynch now conjures a different kind of magic. She stars in a stage production of Houdini as Bess, wife of the master illusionist and escape artist. Jamie Nichols, an intimidatingly well-built and handsome British actor plays the lead. He’s full of talk about body fat and building muscle and the kinds of things that make you feel guilty about eating a Walnut Whip for breakfast. Stuart Brennan wrote the script and also stars as Theo Weiss, Harry Houdini’s brother. Brennan is doing well, with a BAFTA (Cymru) for Best Actor under his belt for Risen and a script in development with Martin Scorsese.
Lynch wanted to do something on stage “for years” and says her parents probably have more respect for theatre than film. It’s been a rather incredible few years for her. As a child, the Harry Potter books were important enough for her to write to their author JK Rowling. At 14 years of age, she snagged a role thousands of girls dreamed of, stepping into a colossal film franchise with millions of fans around the world. “At the time it was ‘I want to play Luna Lovegood, I want to be in the Harry Potter films,’” she says, as opposed to wanting to be an actor. She had already auditioned for another gig though, a short Irish film called 34A, “about girls who wanted to have big boobs.” The Harry Potter experience has undoubtedly changed the course of her life. The 22-year-old from Termonfeckin in Louth now speaks with an LA lilt and the kind of measured detachment that young actors exhibit.
When she reflects on it now, she can talk with some perspective about her life changing instantly. “I got a lot of independence,” she begins, mentioning how school became tutoring in England. “At 16 I was living by myself and getting up and going to work and all that, and doing school. So there was that juggling of normal life and adult life, like working in the real world.” Her friends didn’t change, her family didn’t either, but people were “more interested in me, I suppose . . . I think the biggest change was personally, I had to come out of myself.” She wasn’t too great at being herself. Interviews were a disaster, she’d just sit there, scared and answer “yes?” “I didn’t know how to ‘be’. It really scared me.”