As the story is told, 20 years ago, one production broke through. Irish playwright Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs was beautiful, eccentric, and exciting — charming kindred spirits, compelling critics, and fascinating anyone brave enough to suspend reality and dig in. This is why it's all the more fitting that actress Evanna Lynch would play an integral part in its 20th anniversary revival.
Lynch, now 25, was only 14 when she was cast as Harry Potter's Luna Lovegood. While she's grateful for the strange, fabulous character, she's now asserting her strange, fabulous self, taking care to put Luna where she belongs: a place that's gently removed from the foreground; not forgotten, but quietly co-existing with the career of her present and the magical legacy of her past.
Zimbio caught up with Lynch before Disco Pigs' July 12 debut at London’s Trafalgar Studios, where shows would be ongoing until its August 19 finale.
As Lynch has chosen to take part in a select number of projects since Potter, our conversation began with one burning question: Why Disco Pigs?
EL: To me, it's very romantic. It's about two teenagers who are inseparable from birth. Basically, they do everything together, and they're growing up in Cork in this gritty part of the city. They use their imaginations to create this amazing world for themselves where they're the only two people in it. They turn 17 and he, Pig, goes even further into this imaginary world where as [Lynch's character] Runt starts to see other paths for herself. It's just a vibrant, intense play. I'm excited to be in theater. I've never done a play in London.
Zimbio: That's very exciting. It's funny, when I was researching the play, I assumed the main characters were animals.
EL: The characters just refer to themselves as pigs.
Zimbio: Why is that?
EL: It's kind of their own little language. They have their own vocabulary. When I first read the play, it took me a while to get into it, because the language was just so strange. They rhyme everything. I think animals just appeal to them, how they're so instinctive. They're very wild.
Zimbio: Do you think it's hard to find a project you feel really passionate about since Potter?
EL: I wouldn't say 'hard,' but I am quite picky in that I want to play characters I really respect and that are really fascinating to me. Those projects are hard to come by, but I think it's the same in life: that kind of person is hard to come by. I think it's worth being picky and waiting for those characters.
Zimbio: Do you ever see yourself returning to the fantasy genre?
EL: Oh my gosh, definitely! I really love fantasy, so I'd love to. They don't come around often, I think because writing those stories and creating those worlds is so complicated. But yes, I'd love to. I love the freedom [fantasy] gives. Often with those stories you tend to get more unusual, offbeat characters as well.
EL: Yes, it's always interesting to enter those worlds.
Zimbio: And few rival Harry Potter. You did an interview with Irish Tattler recently, and the headline seemed to acknowledge that you're leaving Luna behind. Do you truly feel like you're departing from that experience?
EL: I feel conflicted over that. I'm not determined to burn that bridge. I mean, I know myself, and I'm not her. This character is so different from me. I'm really grateful for everything Potter gave me, and I realize people are still interested in me mostly because of that. But I definitely feel like it's frustrating when people [exclusively] see me that way, because I feel like I've moved on. At the same time, I know that Luna is such a big part of me because she's a character I was so inspired by growing up, and I do understand that people see me as a figure from their childhood too, but it's just not me. I can't limit myself that way. I just don't feel like I need to firmly establish the difference. Child stars like Miley Cyrus who completely destroyed that childhood image, she felt like she needed to do that for her, but I wouldn't do something so drastic. I admire people like that, because I think they're so assertive about establishing themselves. But I still feel quite close to Luna. I wouldn't ever feel the need to drastically separate myself from her.
Zimbio: Do you think you'd ever return as Luna, maybe in a future HP spin-off?
EL: Yeah, I totally would, I'd love to. [Potter author J.K. Rowling] hasn't mentioned anything, but I would. Although I'd probably be too old by the time that happened to play Luna.
Zimbio: I know you and [Potter co-star] Bonnie Wright are close. Did you two make that connection while filming, or was it more after the fact?
EL: That's an interesting question! I think probably after filming. On the Potter set, we were often either working or at school. Since then, we've both taken particular interest in charity and we've gone to Haiti together and you tend to get closer on trips. It's a tricky thing to navigate, having been in a huge film but still trying to make your voice heard. I think for some of the other actors, their path is very set for them, and she and I are still finding ourselves. I feel that bond with a lot of the other actors as well, and we tend to support each other and go to each other's plays and films. It's just nice to have someone to talk to who understands that, because I have so many actor friends who are in LA just starting out, and I sometimes think, 'I wish I could start fresh!' But you have to be more careful when you already have an audience. It's nice having someone around who understands that unusual position of having a fanbase but also still having to decide what to do with your career. I think we just understand that.
Zimbio: Your time with J.K. Rowling's charity, Lumos, in Haiti sounds like it was a really fulfilling experience. Hard, but fulfilling. Do you consider her a mentor?
EL: Yeah, completely. I think, subconsciously, I just want to be her friend, you know? She's given me so much, even just through writing the books, and then through me having the privilege to play one of her characters. I definitely feel like I owe her a lot. I remember the first time I met her, I was so amazed by how warm and generous she is, her mind is just so full of ideas and brilliance. She's so busy and so in-demand, and yet she has this amazing quality of being able to be fully present with you, and to care about you. The fact that she could just sit back and be with her family but she's got this urge to keep giving and contributing...I just so admire that tireless, loving side of her. You see it in the way she talks to her fans on Twitter. She's so, so caring about people. Personally, I find it hard to connect to that many people.
Zimbio: And yet you always make an effort to smile and remain really positive. I think that's clear to your fans and followers.
EL: I think you should consider your legacy and the influence that you could have on people. I always find that I'm at my best and most generous and kind when I feel good about myself, so I think it's important to take care of yourself. I notice that even something as simple as going vegan...like one time I went to a convention and they had no vegan food, and I just got so grumpy really quickly. When you don't feel good about yourself, it's harder to reach and really care about other people. My mom is someone, for example, who is just constantly giving. She's very selfless, and I sometimes feel like she burns out because she's always thinking of others. I think in order to be your best self for the rest of the world, you have to put yourself first. There are days when I get frustrated, but I personally feel a responsibility to have a positive influence on people. When I was younger, Jo [J.K. Rowling] wrote to me when I was sick, and just that simple act is something I admire so much. She actually considered me and took in my feelings and my pain. That was so profoundly moving to me.
Zimbio: It is. Even with the best intentions, it's not always easy to be that person.
EL: Anyone in this kind of position needs to be aware of what they're putting out there, and it should be something that makes people feel good.
Zimbio: Luna was very much a part of your adolescence. I know you were quite young when you started filming the character. Was there anything about her that you think you picked up, or that you've held onto? Anything you'd like to impart?
EL: Yes. The way she embraces her awkwardness, or the fact that she doesn't fit in. I actually think it's like being in this industry. Every time you go into an audition, your subconscious is kind of like, 'Try to please these people!' That's what's going through your head. You want to be liked. When I go to awards ceremonies or parties, it's like...I've always had this sense of, 'I don't fit in here,' or 'I'm odd,' or 'I don't know how to be cool.' The impulse is to try to fit in, to try to squash that feeling, because it is so uncomfortable. But the older I get, the more I'm like, 'I can't make that feeling go away, it's just a part of me.' I have to embrace it the way Luna does. She's able to dwell in that awkward, uncomfortable space and still enjoy herself, and not feel like that's a bad thing. In my mind, it's like, 'That's bad, you need to not feel this way,' so I try to channel her and think, 'No, sit here, enjoy this awkwardness,' you know? See the differences between people and just soak it up. That's something I always go back to her for, for comfort in those situations.