When I first learned I was going to interview actress Hayley Atwell, who plays Evelyn Robin in the just-released Christopher Robin, I was super excited. Actually, “super-excited” is kind of a lame way to describe the level I hit on the thrill-0-meter. I was going to see Peggy Carter face to face! Like…be in the same room with her. Now. I was excited to meet Ewan McGregor (because of course I was.) Interviewing Jim Cummings, the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger was a once-in-a-lifetime honor. But Peggy Carter? This Marvel lover practically had to be scraped off the ceiling. I am a huge (although kind of new) lover of all things Marvel. I'm currently in the middle of season two of Agent Carter, which is a television series that tells the story of what Peggy Carter's life was life directly after World War II. The only negative thing I have to say about Agent Carter is that the second season is the last. But, I digress. I had an interview with Hayley Atwell, who plays Christopher Robin's wife in the newly released movie by the same name. I thought it would be difficult not to go totally Marvel fangirl on her but it really wasn't.
The reason why moms are virtual high five-ing Evelyn Robin – Interview with Hayley Atwell
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First things first:
Hayley Atwell is a truly wonderful actress. I got to screen Christopher Robin on Sunday night and I interviewed Hayley on Monday morning. When I watched her on the screen and when I was in the room with her, I didn't see Peggy Carter. I mean…at one point, I thought to myself “Oh my stars, that is Peggy Carter sitting across the table from me.” But seriously, she does such an amazing job assuming the roles that she's playing that all you see is her character.
In person, Atwell is super vivacious and chatty. If you want a sense of her personality, follow her Instagram feed. I bet she'd be fun to hang out with. She seems like the kind of person who would turn an ordinary Target run into a grand adventure.
The dress in the picture above was the dress Atwell was wearing during our interview. It's very glam and although rose gold is super on trend now, the silhouette gives a nod to the time period in which the movie is set.
Second things second
In the movie Christopher Robin, Atwell plays Christopher's wife Evelyn. The film introduces Evelyn briefly when she and Christopher meet on a bus (adorable if you're into all that mushy stuff) and then follows her throughout her days as a solo parent to daughter Madeline while Christopher is off at war. One of the main story lines in this film is Christopher's lack of presence and the way he brushes off his daughter. Evelyn Robin is the gentle buffer between a harried dad that's too busy for fun and a little girl who is feeling left out and not really embracing childhood as she should.
But here's the thing.
Hayley Atwell is not a mother in real life. She does an amazing job in her role as Evelyn. She is a strong and loving mom and credits her own strong mom (and other strong women in her life) for inspiration to draw on when playing Evelyn.
I was pretty blown away. Being a mom is the biggest part of my persona. I'm not an actress but I would think it would be difficult to play such a convincing mother figure without having first-hand experience. Atwell knocked it out of the park, but as I said before, she is a truly wonderful actress.
“I have a strong mother and I have strong women in my life,” explains Atwell when asked the question of where she got the inspiration to play a strong, loving mother. “I think it’s from those experiences of being with older women who set the way and the safety that I have felt from them at times when the feeling the world is a big place and the kind of the calm, the calm kind of voice of reason and strength but a gentleness that comes with that is something that I’ve had experienced over the women in my life.”
Hayley Atwell describes the character of Evelyn Robin as “emotionally intelligent.”
Without giving too much of the movie away (and you can read my full review HERE) Christopher Robin focuses on the title character's lack of presence in his family life. He's portrayed as remote, stressed out and distracted, although we can see that he's not a bad guy and maybe a little bit of a product of his time. We get a small glimpse into Christopher and Evelyn's early relationship and we see a lot of love and joy in those fleeting scenes. This establishes the fact that they do have a loving foundation and that the little thing we refer to in modern times as “work life balance” has gotten in the way of experiencing that love and joy.
When Christopher works late and comes home way past the dinner hour, Evelyn expresses her disappointment without berating him. When he backs out of their weekend away in the country, she is visibly upset but she doesn't lose her temper. When Christopher makes a bizarre appearance in the yard at their vacation cottage, upsetting their daughter Madeline, she speaks her mind and expresses her displeasure at the situation but she doesn't try to turn her daughter against her father.
“She’s not passive,” says Atwell of Evelyn. “She doesn’t kind of sit there, you know, allowing things to happen but she also doesn’t attack him for it. I think she’s aware of the complexities of his situation and also being heartbroken about the effects it’s having on her daughter but also not turning her daughter against her father as well. And I think for me that was a very emotionally intelligent character choice to make and one that was much more realistic. I think that’s what parents have to do and have to struggle with.”
Atwell touches on the need to help children process pain in a healthy and loving way, and talks about how families will identify with the character relationship dynamics, even though Christopher Robin is a feel-good family movie. Evelyn Robin is the mom we can all relate to and the mom we want to be more like. She handles what is a rough patch in her family life with heart and with grace and while she stands up for herself, she's not combative and doesn't allow her anger to add to the situation. She comforts her daughter, who is devastated because her father isn't spending any time with her in a loving, nurturing way. She helps Madeline acknowledge her pain and then gently redirects her.
On her favorite Hundred Acre Wood character
I love hearing the different answers people who worked on this film give in answer to this question. Atwell tells us that while she favored Piglet as a child, that she is now more partial to Pooh.
“I always found Piglet to be just totally adorable and so vulnerable and it always made me want to kind of reach out and look after Piglet,” says Atwell. “Having worked with Piglet though it’s just neurotic. It’s like he’s got what we call now in today’s kind of vocabulary is anxiety and like treated with hay corns which seem to kind of exasperate his issues. I think he needs like maybe some therapy and medication.”
This answer made me laugh…Piglet is pretty neurotic when you think about it.
“Pooh to me ended up being like the kind of Zen master because almost like this bit of an unknown guru without realizing it which makes him so endearing isn’t it because he doesn’t have that self-awareness to know really what he’s saying. He’s just pure love without agenda.”
I think this is probably the best description of Pooh, ever. He is very wise for one who describes himself as a “bear of very little brain” and the “pure love without agenda” pretty much sums up Pooh in a haycorn shell.
On her favorite piece of Pooh wisdom
This one is Atwell's favorite:
“I find doing nothing is really hard,” explains Atwell. “Today there's this constant need for living where there seems to be now such a praise and celebration for productivity and perfectionism and attaining of goals and achievement and success but I think it can create Piglets in us of neurosis which is not the healthiest response to a world that seems to want so much of us that we can’t ever be enough.”
This answer got me right in the feels. I'm one who has trouble doing nothing and seeing Christopher Robin has made me realize that embracing nothingness is something I need to work on. I see a lot of myself in the gruff parent who has forgotten some of what's important.
“The profound simplicity of it [the movie Christopher Robin] just made me feel that this is kind of already a wonderful film to be telling now, you know. It’s just something that’s very
refreshing. It’s basically saying you’re enough and I just want to hang out with you as you are.”
Hayley Atwell is fun, whimsical, ridiculously talented and best of all, she really gets this movie and the message behind it. If you haven't seen it yet, grab someone you love and grab some tissues (but I promise you will leave with a smile on your face) and go see it. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll think. Maybe you'll question your own emotional intelligence, your way of handling times of family stress or your ability to balance all the things on your plate. I saw more of myself in the character of Christopher Robin than I want to admit but Atwell's portrayal of Evelyn has helped me to realize that I need to slow down. High fives to Evelyn Robin.
More about Disney's Christopher Robin
Christopher Robin stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin; Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn; Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline; and Mark Gatiss as Keith Winslow, Robin’s boss. The film also features the voice of Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.
Christopher Robin is a heartwarming live action adventure, the young boy who shared countless adventures with his stuffed animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood has grown up and lost sight of what’s important in life. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasure in life once again.
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is NOW PLAYING in theatres everywhere! Stay tuned for more exclusive behind-the-scenes awesomeness that I got during my whirlwind three days in Los Angeles. I can’t wait to share with you! To stay up-to-date, subscribe to my blog and follow #ChristopherRobinEvent on social media. You can also follow #RalphBreaksTheInternetEvent and #InfinityWarBluRay to see some of the other great things we got to see and do in the city of Angels…so yep…you know you're going to get some sneak peeks of some cool stuff!
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