Everyone has some sort of experience watching Mary Poppins in some form or another. Although it has been over half a century since Julie Andrews graced the screen as Poppins, the title character lives on in fans’ hearts and dreams. Now she’s back in Mary Poppins Returns. Well, the character, at least. This time Emily Blunt takes on the role made famous by Andrews in 1964. She brings back the warm charm and snark that fans know about the seemingly magical British nanny.
We were fortunate enough to join our fellow journalists to talk to the cast about the sequel, where Blunt addressed what it was like to play the role and what she did to prepare for it. Check out what she had to say below.
Blunt said the first time she heard about the role was when her friend and Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall called her about it. She recalled how the voicemail had a “charged energy to it,” which left her very intrigued as to what it could be. So when she got the call from him, it had this “ceremonious” tone to it.
“He said, ‘You know, we’ve been digging through the Disney archives, and you know, by far their most prized possession is…’ And I am like, ‘What!? What is it?’ And I couldn’t think what it was,” Blunt said. “So when Marshall said Mary Poppins, I felt the air changed in the room. It was so extraordinary. Such an extraordinary rather unparalleled moment for me because I was filled with instantaneous yes but also trepidation, all happening simultaneously because she is so iconic. She had such a big imprint on my life and on everyone’s life.”
Blunt knew how much people cared for the character and how they held her close to their hearts. So it was important for the actress to figure out how to create her own version of Mary Poppins. “No one wants to see me do a cheap impersonation of Julie Andrews,” Blunt said. “Because no one is Julie Andrews. So she should be preserved and treasured in her own way of what she did.”
“There is not another person on this planet who could have played that part but you,” Marshall said.
One thing she did not do was watch the original. However, she did refer back to the books to influence her performance. “She leaped off the page in terms of how complicated she is. How indelible she is in this wonderful way,” Blunt said. “That duality of the character even if she is stern, she is incredibly rude and vain, but like funny. And yet, there is this humanity. She has to, herself, have such a child-like wonder in her in order to want to infuse these children’s lives with it. There must be a generosity of spirit in order to fix and heal the way she does.”
In her discussions with Marshall, Blunt would talk about those characteristics so much and find those layers of humanity. She adds that Mary Poppins must have been an adrenaline junkie for her to take herself and the kids out on these wild adventures. It was finding those moments that added depth and not make her “one thing.”
On Mary Poppins and Jack’s (Lin-Manuel Miranda) relationship in the film, Blunt says the two characters are very much kindred spirits. “Even though he’s not necessarily magical, he gets it and believes it. They are sort of in cahoots with each other. So I loved playing that chemistry with Lin. I was so lucky to get to play it with him because he is such a wonderful bounce back and forth. There was such a buoyancy to him and how he played his character.”
Mary Poppins Returns opens in theaters on December 19, 2018. Click right here for a trailer and more on the film.