British actors tend to have more longevity than American ones, and Imelda Staunton is the perfect example. After a long and fruitful theater and television career in the UK, Staunton really broke out across the pond in Mike Leigh’s “Vera Drake,” which earned her an Oscar nomination. But it did more than that: According to Staunton, “Vera Drake: is the reason she got cast in what is now her most recognizable role: The universally loathed “Harry Potter” villainess in a pink dress, Dolores Umbridge.
“Dolores Umbridge is just part of a wonderful franchise, and I’m just one of the many characters who can hopefully frighten a couple of children on the street,” Staunton said in an interview with IndieWire. “It was wonderful to be part of that, but I wouldn’t have got that part without ‘Vera Drake,’ which absolutely upped my profile. ‘Vera Drake’ was the one that did it for me.” When asked if she was aware of comparisons between Umbridge and Donald Trump, as this Photoshopped image that went viral in 2016 can attest, she demurred, but admitted to seeing the similarities.
“This is a woman, I mean the evil in her was that she was after ethnic cleansing, quite frankly, with pure bloods and a dictator,” said Staunton. “Yes, we have all those today, but I think abusing your position of power, which she definitely did…[Americans] have someone doing that on a daily basis. That’s what’s shocking.”
She had sharp words for the Trump Administration and its parallels with her villainous character. “Those people shouldn’t be in power, and she certainly shouldn’t have been in power,” she said. “You’ll find those comparisons in every century, in every decade there’ll be someone like that. It was a wonderful piece of writing that J.K. [Rowling] put in those books. These teachers, on the whole, they were great to the kids, but this was one who absolutely should not have been there.”
While there is no mention of Umbridge appearing in any of the forthcoming “Fantastic Beasts” films, the “Harry Potter” prequel franchise, Staunton was so deliciously evil that it wouldn’t be surprising if she did show up. Staunton would likely be up for it, seeing as how delighted she was that “Harry Potter” filmed so close to home. “I love the fact that ‘Harry Potter’ was made 40 minutes from my house, and yet it’s a universal phenomenon.”
In the meantime, those looking for a lighter side of Staunton can check out “Finding Your Feet,” a romantic dramedy that casts Staunton alongside “old mates” Celia Imrie and Timothy Spall (another “Harry Potter” regular). Directed by Richard Loncraine (“Wimbledon”), Staunton plays a woman who moves in with her free-wheeling, estranged sister (Imrie) after she discovers her husband has been having an affair. Uptight and stubborn, she reluctantly joins a senior dance class, where she not only finds her feet, but a new lease on life. It’s a charming romance full of Britain’s great character actors.
“How nice for all of us to be doing these sort of stories at this time in our lives,” said Staunton. “There’s a huge audience out there for people over the age of 19 watching films.”
“Finding Your Feet” is being released by Roadside Attractions, and is currently in cinemas.