Lashana Lynch Filming Matilda the Musical, The Woman King – The Hollywood Reporter
For Lashana Lynch, 2022 is all about showing off her level. In Sony Queen, she plays Igozie, a member of the all-female warrior unit historically known as the Agojie, led by Viola Davis’s General Nanisca. While it requires intense training (and does her own stunts), it suits Lynch’s other film roles – among them a pilot in Captain Marvel and a secret agent in There’s no time to die. But it’s Netflix Matilda musical, based on the Roald Dahl novel, and the subsequent stage musical to play in the West End and Broadway, which is a big departure from Lynch’s string of villainous characters. As Miss Honey, a kind and supportive teacher who tries to protect the young protagonist from the cruel and sadistic headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (played by Emma Thompson), Lynch must accept the edge. her softer, less confident side — and tightens up some of the tone. The actress recently talked to CHEAP about finding the crossroads between these side-by-side roles and what she’s learned from her powerful co-stars.
I want to talk about Matilda First because Miss Honey is so different from the characters you already know. Is that part of the appeal?
I was desperate to [play] someone who is fragile, vulnerable, emotional and [wears their] heart on [their] sleeves and don’t really know what to do. I love being in charge as a human being and playing lovable characters who are very confident. But I feel like with all the confident people I present, I always try to weave in some questions about myself or lack of confidence, self-doubt, anxiety. Sometimes it doesn’t always have a place. And now I have found a place. I have to work with children and be tactful; I had to learn more about myself and how I wanted to approach a character. In short, it was just what I needed.
Are you Matilda fan before logging in as Miss Honey?
Correct! I read the book over and over again when I was a kid. I love [1996 film, starring Mara Wilson as Matilda]. I tried many times to see [stage] and was never able to get a ticket, which I was really excited about. It’s great to come up with something fresh. It’s like Shakespeare – what would your version be? I had this wonderful conversation with [director Matthew Warchus] at the top about what kind of person Miss Honey would become, and I was afraid I would mess things up. I come from straight theater – I’m used to dramatic. This is the other side of the coin, but that’s why it’s so interesting.
What is the biggest challenge with this role?
To not take yourself too seriously. Coming from drama school and over 10 years in the industry, you want to make sure you’ve done all the right things for your character, that you’re having all the right conversations with the director, that you’re doing it right. First day of school. Here, I was able to literally play. I mean, we had hundreds of kids on set. If I walk in and I’m like, “Wow, mine The plot is…” (laugh.) You just need to be in a puddle and be as easy-going as possible. And there are really fragile, little human beings running around your feet every day. I relied on my conversations with Matthew, which helped me realize that Miss Honey — and Matilda, to some extent — provide balance. Everyone is in the sky, and we are the ones who are constantly trying to stay on the ground.
Did you learn anything from working with so many child actors?
I believe children should be talked to as human beings because the more we underestimate their minds, the more [likely] we are the ones who will look stupid. They absorb more than we anticipated. And these kids are very smart. They spent 5, 6 months in training camp, learning acting and choreography. They were probably more prepared than I was. I just want to make sure they feel they can trust me, that they feel safe and that I’m just playing around with them – allowing myself to be as free as an actor around people with a certain degree of self-esteem. by the best.
That is Miss Honey’s spirit: treating children as equals, as opposed to – as Miss Trunchbull would call them – maggots.
I really love children, and I am fascinated by their brains. And me and the crew are surrogate parents for them at certain times, you know – when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing, or they don’t hear Matthew’s instructions, they come to me and I will have to have an answer. I want them to see me as Lashana, but I want them to be guided by Miss Honey. to the end [a few kids said]”I hope you can come to our school and teach!”
you sing in Matilda – have you done many musicals?
I started singing for a long time, from a very young age until my first year in drama school, maybe around 19 or 20. I was recording an EP, going to the studio after school – that was amazing. I just can’t do both, can I? I don’t want to participate in musical theater, I want to act and sing separately. I thought, “At some point in life, there will be a world where they can co-exist, but that will be my choice, and I will be able to have the best character to sing through. . “
And Miss Honey is not your typical big, ostentatious musical role.
That is what comforts me. I was like, “Are you sure you want me to be Miss Honey? There are many – I can even suggest a few; I have some friends who would be great for that!” (laugh.) I don’t want her lost in the world. Mr. and Mrs. Ngai [Matilda’s parents, played by Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough] and Miss Trunchbull had those great moments, and Miss Honey was the center of the storm for Matilda. And for the kids discovering Miss Honey for the first time, here it is their Miss Honey, and that’s extraordinary.
You mentioned your young co-stars will undergo training to prepare for Matilda —which is probably almost as exhausting as your preparation for Queen.
I thought I was prepared until I realized I wasn’t. Yes, I played sports as a teenager. Yes, I danced at one point in my life. Yes, I did some stunts. But let the director, stunt coordinator and trainer see your abilities and your body and say you can do it — and we won’t have double stunts? Real wild! But I’m really competitive, and I’m always up to the challenge. There’s absolutely no way I’m allowing them to appreciate me and not deliver. It changed lives. My body shakes every time [workout] training session — an hour and a half of weight training and then straight into more than three hours of stunts, martial arts, and choreography each day.
Igozie resembles Miss Honey in that she is Thuo Mbedo’s Nawi mentor. Was that what you were thinking when you were shooting these movies?
It’s refreshing to prepare for a role a month or two before completing another. Literally, I’ve been playing Miss Honey for the past few weeks as I’ve been changing my diet and training for Queen, which you can imagine is a little nightmare. I didn’t have any through [among my film roles] that has [made] so many meanings. It tells me what kind of person I want to be for my community, for young people, and for my future children. I want to make sure we’re instilling the right mindset, the right lifestyle in their lives to make sure they really just need to remember that they’re enough. And it’s nice to see a young black woman in 2022 in the cinema as a supporting character, who doesn’t sow influence and inspiration in young people’s heads but reminds them that they are capable.
Another highlight is that you have to work with amazing women like Emma Thompson and Viola Davis. What have you learned from them?
Working directly with two women like Emma and Viola in the same year, you are reminded that we are all human beings who make choices, build on our experiences, and apply them to our work. We come to work with the hope that we can create together, and making mistakes and forgetting your lines and reminding the kids that we’re working — or dropping a machete and picking it up — is important. It was powerful to feel it from two extraordinary, formidable women. Viola has all the hallmarks of someone you want to be with forever. She taught me how to survive in the workplace as a real human being and reminded everyone that you are a human being, not this force that has come to work. So does Emma: “Never look at me because I am a huge, amazing giant. I’m just a human trying to make it work. We show up every day, we connect with each other. And together we become leaders, instead of expecting the more experienced to be [in charge].
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the January 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to sign up.