Over the course of seven novels and eight films the Harry Potter series has delivered a number of memorable adversaries for the boy wizard to face off against. Aside from Lord Voldemort himself, one of the most hated of the antagonists may very well have been Professor Dolores Umbridge, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher introduced in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, whose unusual forms of punishment and authoritarian style earned the ire of both readers and audiences. Speaking to EW’s Binge podcast, actress Imelda Staunton, who played the character in the film series, revealed that she too has no love for Dolores Umbridge.
Staunton revealed her own feelings towards the character and shared her approach towards playing the role.
“I don’t have to have sympathy at all, not in the slightest. I think she’s a bloody monster and to be played as such I don’t need to understand what she does, but from a character point of view, she believes she’s doing the absolute best for that school. Yet again, I have embraced a completely and utterly deluded woman.”
Staunton explained how director David Yates helped shape her performance.
“He made it very clear to me and said, ‘Look, this woman is into ethnic cleansing,’ and that’s quite political. He said, ‘That’s what this is, the pure-bloods and all that.’ I thought, ‘Christ, of course that’s what it is,’ so it became very serious. That’s when you go, ‘Right, I’m not just a lady in a very nice array of pink outfits. This is madness and cruelty dressed up.'”
Staunton discussed the difficulty of playing such a revolting character and revealed which scene she found most difficult to shoot.
“It’s fascinating to play because you want to get your head around it. But I want to make sure that I serve the purpose in the story and it was very difficult. I loved doing it, but I have to say, the most difficult scene to do, which did leave me feeling pretty bad for a couple days, was actually the scene where I make him do the lines and it happens in his hand.”
Staunton elaborated on why that scene was the most difficult for her play out.
“That touched into something that you think, ‘Gosh, we’re all capable of great cruelty.’ It was a horrible, horrible feeling.”
Staunton also commented on what she found most alarming about her characters behavior in that sequence.
“She’s not sort of twirling her mustache and saying ‘Muahahaha,’ it’s the absolute and utter belief that actually it is going to help and that’s, of course, so much more frightening.”
While Imelda Staunton may have felt uneasy while playing Dolores Umbridge, her performance led to the character becoming one of the most despise villains in the entire Harry Potter franchise.
Fans can listen to entire interview by following the link to EW’s Binge podcast.
The next entry in the Harry Potter film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, opens in theaters on November 18, 2016.