From the time Emma Watson was a teenager, she struggled with whether she wanted a career as an actor. She had become an international star at age 11, playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise, and while she was grateful for it, she fantasized about a normal life. So as the Potter films wound down, she enrolled at Brown University in 2009 and dropped out of sight for a few years, appearing only in a small role in the 2011 film, My Week With Marilyn. For a time, she let the press’ (and even a teacher’s) negative input about her future as an actress eat away at her. But the script for The Perks of Being a Wallflower got her attention and the experience of playing Sam in that 2012 film sparked a new interest. She then built on Perks with this summer’s The Bling Ring and This is the End, signaling the varied, mature career she could have ahead—and earning her a place in EW’s New Hollywood issue. Here, she spoke with EW about her change of heart.
EW: During the last few years of the Harry Potter franchise you seemed really unsure that you wanted to have an acting career. I’m kind of surprised that you decided you did.
EMMA WATSON: I know! I think my agent was pretty surprised, too. [Laughs] I was really unsure, but then I read the script for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and falling in love with that and then having such a great experience on that movie kind of sealed the deal for me. I stopped intellectualizing it, and it became much more instinctual. I just got the bug and got very driven all of a sudden, which I really wasn’t before. But I’m so happy. It’s all felt very new to me, really.
How affected were you by all the hand-wringing in the press about whether you and Daniel Radcliffe could have post-Potter careers?
For a while I kind of bought into the hype of, ‘Will they ever be able to play anything else?’ It gave me a sense of paralysis and stage fright for a while. And then a professor told me that they didn’t think I should act, either. So I was really grappling with it and wasn’t feeling good about it. And then, I don’t know … it got so bad and people had put me in a box so much that it started pissing me off. I suddenly wanted to prove them wrong. It gave me fuel, in a way. I’m not sure why that shift happened.
Well, you hadn’t had a chance to make an adult decision about being an actor and suddenly other people were making it for you.
That’s exactly what it was. I wanted to make a conscious adult decision that this was what I wanted to pursue, because that decision was made for me as a nine-year-old. I had no idea what I wanted. I had no idea who I was really. So I wanted to step away and make sure this is what I wanted to pour my life and my energy and my blood, sweat, and tears into.
To read more from Watson (including her career bucket list), pick up the New Hollywood issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday.