Princess Leia. Katniss. Black Widow. Michonne. Ripley. Wonder Woman.
In the pantheon of amazing female heroes stands another, with a brilliant mind, a devastating wand, and a head full of bushy hair: Hermione Granger.
With Emma Watson bringing to life another iconic heroine, Belle in the new live-action Beauty and the Beast, the 26-year-old actress reflected on the impact of her breakthrough role as J.K. Rowling’s brave, kindhearted witch from the Harry Potter movies.
In her interview for Entertainment Weekly‘s cover story, she says she hopes Hermione continues to be as inspiring to young girls and women as Carrie Fisher’s galactic warrior or any of those other wondrous women.
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“Hermione was that perfect example of turning on its head this initial prejudice that she gets,” Watson says. “Hermione finds a way to wield her intelligence and become really the leader in this group of two other boys and that’s kind of the role that she assumes.”
Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, much like Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, would have been adrift without their no-nonsense heroines. “Harry is much more intuitive. Ron is just along for the ride. Hermione is the one with the plan,” Watson says. “She’s in control.”
Watch the full interview with Emma Watson here, on the new PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN), or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.
The message of Hermione to young girls is simple, but important to say nonetheless: You belong. And you are nobody’s sidekick. “I think somehow that gave other women permission to feel that they were allowed to take up space,” Watson says.
As one of the ambassadors for the United Nation’s HeForShe outreach movement, Watson has been active in the effort to urge more men to support the feminist movement, so she is especially glad that in the story Ron and Harry always treated her character with respect (even if she endured a lot of deplorable treatment from others).
“What is so fundamentally beautiful about Hermione is her loyalty to that group of friends,” Watson says. “She’s really the glue that keeps that trio together. It’s fundamental, and the boys knew it, and they really treat her as if they know that.”
For more on this week’s cover story, watch EW The Show, available now here, on the new PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.
She also hopes that, like many of those other female heroes, Hermione is someone boys can look up to, as well.
“If I asked a young boy what superhero they looked up to, I feel a lot fewer would say a female one than in reverse, which is a shame because I feel like we need to live in a culture that values and respects and looks up to and idolizes women as much as men,” Watson says. “I think that’s starting to slowly change, but it is something that does actively need to be addressed.”
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