Years since her 11-year career as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise, Emma Watson is back on the big screen after a hiatus and smaller feature roles. More importantly, though, she’s back in a world of beasts and magic. In preparation for this role, during a stint that seemed to be an attempt to shake off her wizardly image, Watson cut her hair, went to university, became a UN ambassador, and started a book club. We watched her grow up playing a strong female lead until Voldemort was finally defeated. Soon after, Watson was able to join the ranks of badass women in real life before returning to fantasyland in her role as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, out February 17th. Don’t get me wrong– I’m excited about the film and all, but I’m more interested in what she did when she kind of fell off the face of the earth for, like, six years. Her Instagram account is sparse, but that can only mean she was busy doing dope stuff. Perhaps we can learn from her, the former “brightest witch of the age,” about the benefits of off-time and properly digesting real life. It had to have been good, or else she’d have been posting about protein bars for the past six years like other child actors we know…
The last Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, premieres and Watson debuts her cropped pixie haircut. She describes it as “the most liberating thing ever”— so, think Britney. It marks a fresh start, one she brought to her role in her first film after Harry Potter, My Week with Marilyn. She also becomes the youngest face of Lancôme; a position Kendall Jenner now holds. With all the year’s excitement, Watson decides to take time off from Brown University where she’d been a student since 2009 studying English Literature.
Watson plays Sam, an American teen, in Perks of Being a Wallflower. For her work, she’s awarded a People’s Choice Award and the Best Supporting Actor Award at the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.
Donning extensions, Watson stars in The Bling Ring, a Sofia Coppola film. It is about a gang of teens who rob celebrity homes in Los Angeles. Watson said she loved how different this role was from hers as Hermione.
This is the year Watson plays Ila in Noah and graduates from Brown. Most notably, though, it is the year she is appointed UN Goodwill Ambassador in July. She is named an advocate for the HeforShe campaign. Her speech on feminism goes viral as she promotes gender equality. The excitement about her speech is feverish. Women’s rights, Watson says, are “inextricably linked to who” she is. They have been since she played a leading female as part of a male-heavy cast at age nine. Since her appointment, Watson has considered going back to school to focus on gender studies and realized that she was “learning so much by being on the ground and just speaking with people and doing [her] reading.” She’s proven that fame does not an ambassador make. The actress and humanitarian was selected by UN because of her efforts in promoting fair trade and organic clothing and her previous work as an ambassador for Camfed International, “a movement to educate girls in rural Africa.” Watson has since traveled the globe promoting women’s rights and leading talks. She’s learned to resist “self-doubt,” and is on a mission to encourage this in all women.
By this year, Watson’s done well in distancing herself from the trenches of the internet where Harry Potter fan fiction still festers and used her stardom to promote eco-friendly and sustainable clothing. This is something she’s been interested in since 2010 when she designed a clothing line with People Tree and traveled to Bangladesh to check out the working conditions. This year she took part in The Green Carpet Challenge to shed light on the importance of sustainable styles. With her stylist, Watson selected only eco-friendly looks on the red carpet during her press tour for her film, out this year, Regression.
Watson announces she’s going to be taking a year-long hiatus to focus on feminism and starts a feminist book club called Our Shared Shelf. She’s interviewed by bell hooks for Paper Magazine and reveals how this year will be full of listening, reading, and focusing on her personal development. She hasn’t said when the hiatus will start. In November, she scatters her favorite books around train stations in London as part of the Books on the Underground campaign.
Watson is cartwheeling back into our lives and the world of fantasy in Beauty and Beast. She dons a custom Louis Vuitton eco-friendly dress to the premiere. A collision of her worlds: her feminist/environmentally conscious self and her fantasy roles— Watson’s time away from the world of magic has given her a new sense of duty. Her roles on and off screen need not be mutually exclusive. Her humanitarian efforts and studies can only have bolstered her acting skills. Watson has seen and done so much, and she isn’t done yet. She’s got a long road ahead that she’s admirably paved for herself since Harry Potter, and right now it’s headed back to a castle.