Words: Steve Brown
Imelda Staunton says she thought of Margaret Thatcher while she was playing the evil Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter.
The actress joined the Harry Potter franchise in the fifth film – Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix – as the incredibly hated Dolores Umbridge, a character who has gone down in history as one of the most hated even more so than Lord Voldemort.
And now, while speaking to Out Magazine, the actress admitted she thought of the former Prime Minister – who brought in the homophobic Section 28 – when she was playing the character.
When asked what it was like playing a character so vile, Staunton said: “It’s so much fun because it's got such muscle, a part like that.
“And I have to say, because I came in with the fifth film and that was the first [Potter] for director David Yates [who went on to direct the rest of the films in the series].
“And we both came in as the new guys. But we had very good conversations, him and I, about the seriousness of this woman and about how dangerous she is to be in charge of children.
“It was the ultimate nightmare of having someone like that who is really, really interested in ethnic cleansing, which is what she's interested in. Pure blood. It's horrible.
“Anyway, but to play it, you have to sort of ... we were thinking of having to compare with terrible atrocities and Margaret Thatcher.
“These people who absolutely believe they are doing the right thing.
“So it's not like, ‘I am evil, and I'm going to do ...’, and that's so much more frightening.
“That someone who's so pleasant would, metaphorically, stab you in the heart as many times as she needed to.”
Staunton is now starring alongside Harry Potter alum Dame Maggie Smith in the new Dowton Abbey movie and said she could definitely imagine Umbridge in the costume drama.
She continued: “I think she'd give them a run for their money, yeah. I think she'd clean things up a bit.
“Yes, she could go in and, yeah, make some waves. Because actually, if you think about, I think, Lord Grantham [Hugh Bonneville] and Carson, those two heads, are good people.
“They're locked in some weird world, but within that world, they're trying to do the best they can, whereas [Umbridge] just wanted her own way and to hell with consequences.
“And Grantham and Carson think about consequences, and I think that's the difference between good and bad.”