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Interview: Artemis Fowl’s Tamara Smart

by Charles Trapunski

If you’ve had a chance to watch the Kenneth Branagh movie Artemis Fowl, now streaming on Disney+, what should catch your attention is the performance by London’s Tamara Smart, who is the real breakout of the film. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has seen Smart in The Worst Witch, or Are You Afraid of the Dark?, or has heard about the hotly-anticipated Netflix film A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting, which was recently filmed in Vancouver.

Since Tamara Smart kicks some serious ass as Juliet Butler, we were more than thrilled to speak to the performer, who is based in London, and discover that the young actress has quite a lot to say on a variety of subjects related to the film and her career path. We are often reticent to speak to young talents because they are not yet ready to articulate on the acting experience and subjects beyond their performances, but read on and meet the exception.

The following is a condensed and edited version of our one-on-one phone interview with the worldly and wise Tamara Smart of Artemis Fowl.

Brief Take: I imagine that what to call your director was a puzzle. Do you call him Sir Kenneth? What did you like most about working with Kenneth Branagh?

Tamara Smart: Yeah, usually we called him “Ken”. But yeah [chuckles] it was sort of funny, because we didn’t really know what to call him at first. We didn’t know whether to call him “Sir” or “Ken” or “Mr. Branagh” or something like that. But yeah, it was really amazing. Ken’s a really, really amazing director, but he also has both dynamics of being an actor and a director because he’s been both and I think that just gives him all the more skill. And I think that the one thing, most of what he taught me was being able to tap into my creative side, thinking outside of the box, being able to do fun things that you don’t usually do in movies, that sort of ad libbing quite a few lines, being able to run a scene really, really fast, to get a bit more of a flow, but yeah, working with him – he was a light, he was a real light.

BT: You discussed bringing a lot of your own traits to the character of Juliet Butler. What were some of these traits?

TS: Yeah, obviously, I originally auditioned for Holly, but I found out Ken wanted me to play Juliet, which was really humbling and I was super grateful for it. And because it doesn’t happen ever in movies, like it never happens, that was really exciting. But I would have to say that I got an awful lot of her characteristics from the book, mostly from the book, but I got to add in a couple of things of my own. Obviously her age was quite different, I got to act a little bit younger and I’ve got to say that one of the characteristics that I sort of added was that she didn’t really believe in magic before Artemis told her about it. That was one of the main things that I added in, and I think being able to add in a couple of my own ideas and those sorts of things was super fun. I love how people see the hard, tough, sporty side of Juliet, but you also see the mushy part, her vulnerability, which I really like.

BT: The pacing of the film was really great. What was your favourite scene to film?

TS: I have to say the Troll scene was one of my favourites. That was just a super fun stunt sequence, I’ve got to say, it was really, really fun. It was just something that I really, really enjoyed. And the second scene has to be the Kendo scene between Nonso (Anosie), who plays Butler, and me. We were out there for hours shooting that scene from loads of different camera angles, and they actually ended up bringing hairdryers to keep us warm, which was super funny and yet worth it because I got to see how amazingly the scene worked out.

BT: What was your most memorable moment on set of the film?

TS: I’m going to say two things – I’m going to say the Troll scene because I literally got to break the whole house, we literally got to smash loads of things and break things and it was just super fun. And I’m going to say the day that I wrapped, the day I wrapped was super fun – you have the whole crew clapping for you and I think that it was the most memorable day.

BT: The best part is that you were with Ferdia Shaw and Lara McDonell and actors your own age. What kind of mischief did you get into with them?

TS: I think it was very different. They really don’t have a lot of movies in which there is a mostly child cast. For me it was something that was really exciting because I had actors my age with whom I could hang out. I would have to say that we played on and off set, we had all of our lessons together because we were all in one trailer learning from different teachers and that was pretty weird, it was a pretty new experience for all of us because we sort of sat in there and that was really funny. And we also made like a mini-movie, we never finished it, but we wrote a whole script for it, we made a couple scenes, we filmed them, we cut them, it was pretty funny. And then we obviously had the most fun on set. It was just weird being on a set with a load of people my age because you mess around so much. It was fun, it was really fun.

BT: What was your experience like working with your co-star Josh Gad?

TS: Yeah! I got to meet him and I got to film a couple of scenes with him. He is as funny in the movie as he is in real life. The things that come out of his mouth are craaaazy, you’re on the floor laughing, but whenever we would do a scene with him, it would surprise me in the best way possible when we’d get a scene done, because we’d be rolling on the floor laughing. His has got to be the most ad-libbed character and he’s just quick-witted, he’s just so quick-witted. It’s scary, actually. He could make you laugh in a second, but it was amazing working with him, he was a real joy.

BT: What have you been quaranstreaming, specifically on Disney+ and on Netflix? On that note, what’s your favourite Disney movie?

TS: I have to say, “quaranstreaming” is my new favourite word. [laughs] But on Disney+, a lot of people get really shocked when they find this out, but I have not really watched any Princess movies, (in the U.K., they call Disney movies “Princess movies”). I’m not a kid who ever watched any Princess movies and I’ve had people ask me about movies and I have no idea about them, but yeah, I’ve been watching a number of Princess movies. And then on Netflix I’ve been re-watching The Vampire Diaries, Riverdale and something I’ve really loved on Disney+ was High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. I get it’s a mouthful, but I loved it. I thought that it was super good and I really liked it.

BT: What did you like most about playing the lead in Netflix’s upcoming A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting? Working opposite Tom Felton and Indya Moore, it looks like an incredible project.

TS: Yeah, it is, I’m super excited for everyone to see it. Hopefully it’s going to come out later this year or next year, we’re not too sure yet. It’s a Netflix movie and I am the lead, Penny, and basically Tom Felton and Indya Moore are both my enemies in this movie. I think that especially with Tom Felton, because really with working with him, I’ve always loved the Harry Potter movies. My whole family has watched them every Christmas and whenever we can, and one of my main inspirations is Emma Watson. It was really crazy one day, he was telling me how he had called Emma Watson the other day and I was just going mental, because it’s Emma Watson! He was calling her “Emma”, and I was like: “Emma Watson?! You called Emma Watson yesterday!”. It was something that I really had to wrap my head around because I don’t know, it was just really crazy to me! But obviously he was a huge inspiration for me because I loved him as an evil character in it. And Indya Moore, she was amazing. She was super lovely.

BT: Many of your projects involve magic. You must be a very open-minded person to find these types of roles.

TS: Well, I am a pretty open-minded person. I one hundred per cent believe there are fairies out there, I definitely believe in magic. The magic sort of genre to which I keep going is definitely a coincidence, but I also just love magical stories and I love the way that it used to make me feel when I used to see these magical movies, so I think that’s something to which I think that I open my mind and I love making kids feel the way that I used to feel, still. Yeah, I think that it’s mostly just a coincidence but I think that I really enjoy magical movies, I think that’s sort of what I’m pinpointed on right now. But hopefully soon I would like to get into some horror, some horror movies would be quite fun. But I definitely think that you will see a lot more magical movies with me in them. [laughs]

BT: I really enjoyed the message of the film that young people save the day. How does this tend to come together along your real-life charity work?

TS: Yeah, I think that I really wanted the movie and my character to kind of express that…children, teenagers, young adults—we all have a voice, we need to use it. And with the charity work that I’ve been doing, I’m pretty young. I’m a teenager and I’m starting to learn what I support and what I like, which is charities that fight dementia, and combating homelessness is something which I’m really passionate about. Obviously, everything that is going on right now, the protests, Black Lives Matter is very important to me, being a young, brown child who is an actor. It’s really, really important to me and I hope that people see that either all of this is important and that if you’re passionate about something, you can do something about it, you should just use your voice, and right now, I think that it’s really important to use our platforms, our voices, to make change.

Artemis Fowl is now available on Disney+

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Brief Take