Half of what makes a great villain is a great name. Umbridge is one of the most uniquely menacing monikers to grace both film and literature in the last twenty years. And it's Imelda Staunton who is bringing a face to that evil reputation.
Dolores Umbridge is the Senior Undersecretary to Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She is soon installed as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Harry's Hogwarts Academy for Wizardry. To say she gives Harry and the gang a hard time is an understatement.
We recently caught up with Imelda this past Monday morning to get her take on all the hoopla surrounding Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She told us all about her role in the new film...
Did you at all hesitate about taking the role of the villain in this film?
Imelda Staunton: Of course I didn't hesitate. It's always wonderful for an actor to be given a challenge. It was an enormous challenge. More than I anticipated, actually. I didn't play the nicest woman in the world. And that's what I like.
For you, was this the right part at the right time?
Imelda Staunton: This was great. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter, so I am very popular at home now. Of course, this is such a thrill. And I am working with actors who are going to be here when I'm not here, plus I am working with actors I haven't seen since I was at drama school. From the past, to the future, this was a really great party. Yes. Yes. Yes.
After the attempted bombings in London last week, does the city feel any different? And how has that affected you?
Imelda Staunton: Why are we talking about that?
You don't want to answer?
Imelda Staunton: No, not really.
When the cameras weren't rolling, did you keep your distance from the kids on set to maintain a sense of menace?
Imelda Staunton: No. The character works in the moment when you are doing the scene. I think it is important, when you are not doing it, to have an ordinary relationship with the other actors. Because, I don't want to carry it around. I don't even know how to do that. I think it's healthy to channel the work in the moment of the scene, and then leave it there. You can revisit it, but for the most part you need to leave it alone.
Were you a fan of the Potter world before taking this on? And what is next for you?
Imelda Staunton: I have a daughter. And I have a pulse, of course. I read the novels. I have seen the films. So, yes, I was a fan. And it was exciting to take part in it. At the moment, I am in the middle of a five-part BBC costume drama called Cranford Chronicles.
What period is that?
Imelda Staunton: The 1850s. It also stars Dame Judi Dench.
Do you think that Dolores Umbridge has any redeeming qualities?
Imelda Staunton: Oh, God. I am not one of those actresses that need to like their character in order to play them. But you have to admire her tenacity. And her ability to believe in herself so totally. And her ability to do her job so well. She doesn't let anything stand in the way of her doing her job. She never doubts what she is doing. She is quiet comfortable living in Hell, isn't she?
You were on a harness for some scenes. Have you ever done stunt work like that before? And what was the experience like?
Imelda Staunton: I was hanged in something once. I had to be in a harness for that. Not terribly exciting, is it? In this film I was lucky that I had some very nice dramatic scenes to do with no special effects. Plus I got to be in a harness. I felt exalted. It was very exciting.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens July 11th, 2007.