Last April, a group of fellow journalists and I went to London to visit the set of Mary Poppins Returns. For those unfamiliar with the upcoming sequel, the story has Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returning to help a new generation of Banks children after the family suffers a tragic loss. With the help of her friend Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mary is able to bring some magic back into the lives of the Banks family.
While we were on set, we got to have a group interview with Emily Blunt. During our conversation, Blunt talked about her familiarity with Mary Poppins, taking over such an iconic character, reteaming with director Rob Marshall and co-star Meryl Streep, being the first person to get to sing the new songs, and more.
Check out the interview below. Mary Poppins Returns opens December 19th.
When you were little, your familiarity with P. L. Travers or Mary Poppins, or any relationship you had to the character or the stories or anything?
EMILY BLUNT: Well I think Mary Poppins as a character is so iconic, and I think the film, for me, and I think for most people, is one of those films that is sort of seared into people’s memory, an emblem of their nostalgia in many ways. So I do remember it very fondly and took such a great comfort in it as a child, that was something that struck me of that person coming in and so capable and so magical, and just sweeping it all up and making it right. I took a lot of comfort in that as a child, so I think we are trying to, obviously, continue that now too with our film.
It’s very surreal to me being Mary Poppins.
Did you know the books, or the film, or…?
BLUNT: I did see the film, I actually wasn’t aware that there were books.
Interesting. So you play such diverse roles and you have created such indelible interesting character. Now you are playing a character who has to… you have inhabit a character, made as your own, you have to sing, you have to dance, and there are so many different elements to it. What is the most challenging part of doing all of those things?
BLUNT: The dancing, probably. I feel that I just try to approach her as I would any other character and not be caught up in the white noise of, “Oh my God, you are Mary Poppins.” I think that has been my main focus, is just to approach her calmly, as I would any other character, how I would play her, with what I have given on the page? I have not watched the originals since I saw it as a child, cause I… no one is going to outdo Julie Andrews. I think I just want to… this is just going to be my version her. The dancing has been the most daunting prospect for me.
So you having worked with Rob Marshall before, what is that experience now? That must help in sort of the whole confidence in dancing, knowing you are in good hands.
BLUNT: I mean we all laugh a bit about the fact that Rob makes you feel that you could do anything. In fact, we sort of, all of us come over and then we have to extract the smoke that has blown up… behind all… you know he just has this way of making you feel that you can do anything. He has this wonderful ceremonial approach to film making. He makes it magical and special for everybody. He is meticulous about the details and I just love working with him, because he just digs for golds every day. So he expects a lot of you and that comes from singing, the acting, the dancing, because he doesn’t miss anything. So you do feel in such safe hands with him, in the same way he approaches me as an actor, he approaches me as a dancer now. He just… he wants it to feel like a confident exciting experience and he wants to feel characterful, as appose to perfect. He has depth to him and I just loved every second, I find him the most elegant, wonderful person to be around.