We talked to Cinderella (AKA Lily James) about what it’s like to be a REAL Disney princess

When Lily James was cast as Cinderella in the live action adaptation of the iconic princess tale, she knew she had her work cut out for her. Love them or hate them, everyone has strong opinions about Disney princesses and bringing one to flesh-and-bone life is a huge undertaking. Lily looks the part (she’s even faced some criticism for looking too the part of the animated princess) and, in person, she exudes the same ethereal kindness you’d expect from a real-life princess, but with a side of sass that makes her someone you feel like you could really be BFFs with.

I caught up to Lily at the Los Angeles press junket for Cinderella and picked her brain about all things Disney princess, including which princess she really identified with as a kid (hint: It wasn’t Cinderella) and which Disney movie she loves to watch when she’s hung over.

HG: What was it like bringing an iconic Disney Princess to life? I’m no actress, but that seems so daunting. 

LJ: I was so excited when I got the part and then I was completely terrified. The thing was with this was I had Ken Branagh to direct me and he was so clear from the start about what he wanted to do with the film and with Ella in particular, with the character. So, I had him guiding me through and he made it feel really intimate like it’s just about the story and this girl and the moments that happen and I just tried to not think of it as this princess and just think of it as this girl.

HG: The new movie adds a lot of details to the Cinderella story that we haven’t seen before. What did you think of the details that were added to the story? 

LJ: We wanted, while being really faithful to the fairytale and keeping it really true, we wanted the characters to have much more depth and to be much more believable. Like, with the stepmother, you see why the stepmother is how she is and with Ella, you see that she’s a much — we hope — stronger heroine and the relationship between the prince and her is much deeper and realer.

HG: How did you react when you found out you got the role?

LJ: I was just like completely, completely overwhelmed. I didn’t think I was going to get it. It was a really long process with the auditions and, when Ken rang me, I just screamed so loudly and I just couldn’t believe it. And I was on set for Downton and Laura and Michelle came running over and said, “What is it?” And then Ken was like, “You’re not allowed to tell anyone though.” So I had to just sort of sit on this news and hold it in and it was very hard. It was only actually a few hours, but it felt like a very long time and I actually did tell some people.

HG: So big question time: Who was your favorite Disney princess growing up?

LJ: I would say my favorite was Belle, but I really loved them all. I really loved singing as a kid, so the music of the Disney films just meant everything to me and I remember just getting so caught up in the magic and the music and the moments. But I had long, dark brown hair and I feel like you side with the princess who you feel like maybe you could look like her. So it’s like the Spice Girls; I was always Sporty Spice.

HG: What was your favorite Disney song to sing?

LJ: I actually loved “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. And on my offline Spotify albums, I have the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack as one of them. I love it. I still watch it now, especially if I’m hung over.

HG: Who is more charming in real life, Richard or Kit?

LJ: Oh I can’t answer that! They’re both equally charming.

HG: Okay. Good answer. That’s a safe answer. We’ll go back to the movie: What was the most fun scene to film?

LJ: That’s really hard because honestly in this movie, it was every day. It was a fairytale so I got to be in the ball. Even like the cleaning and the mice in the attic and then my fairy godmother and falling in love with the prince. All of it. I loved all of it.

HG: What’s a moment in your real life that you wish you had a fairy godmother to help you through?

LJ: Well, I do have a godmother who’s amazing. I also thought, like in the film, it’s sort of showing that when you’re at your weakest and feeling like all is lost, the fairy godmother comes. And in this story, it’s a bit of magic that saves her, but in real life, it could be a friend phoning you or your godmother like my godmother. And I’m a big cryer so I always need someone to comfort me.

HG: The sets in this movie are just gorgeous. Did you have a favorite?

LJ: I loved my house and some of the stuff I did early on with my dad because it just felt really like the whole house and the garden, it was all built for real and it was like life-size. It was insane. I just wanted to live there.

HG: Have you gotten the chance to interact with any young fans who really see you as a Disney princess?

LJ: Yeah! At the premiere, there were these two little girls there dressed in the blue gown and I had these Louis Vuitton custom-made slippers with the butterfly and the little girls, there’s pictures of us both wearing the slippers, you know because they have the plastic Disney slippers and it was so sweet. And this little girl just stroked my dress and then another came up and said, “It’s so sad that both your parents died.” And I was like, “Oh no!” It was so sweet.

HG: What was it like playing a character that so many little girls look up to? Did that affect you?

LJ: I feel like, you know, I have to take care of this moment and this role and I’m so lucky and proud to be in this film and certainly, that’s something that’s quite precious and it’s for children and that deserves your consideration.

(Image via here.)

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