Interview – Rose Byrne talks about playing Beatrix Potter in PETER RABBIT 2

PETER RABBIT 2 is now showing on the big screen in cinemas across Ireland. We were lucky enough to visit the film-set to see the film being made and to chat with actress Rose Byrne, who not only has to act alongside a CGI rabbit but she has to step into the shoes of famous writer Beatrix Potter, who is the author of the classic Peter Rabbit stories. Check out our interview below. 

Were you familiar with the work of Beatrix Potter before doing the ‘Peter Rabbit’ movies?
I was, I loved her growing up, I had pet rabbits. I loved them. I loved all the books. So it was very intimidating to bring this to life. She had famously said no to Disney to adapt her books. And so to get the approval of her estate is huge.

Your character is very loosely based on the real Beatrix Potter does that add extra pressure for you that she was a real life character?
Immensely. You know, the legacy of Beatrix Potter is phenomenal and particularly in England, she’s so Beloved, so it’s a huge pressure to be this inspired version of her, it’s not really her but an inspiration for her, in a timeless world. So, of course you’re nervous about presenting that to the world.

What’s Bea’s relationship like with Peter Rabbit in this one?
Well, because she goes on this journey of success in her novels and buys into this stratospheric success, that she’s been promised, she really sort of leaves everything behind in a way, and it’s about that and about Peter’s identity crisis around that. That’s kind of the development of their relationship a little bit.

What has it been like having another live actor (David Oyelowo) on set. Obviously it was just you and Domhnall together for most of the first one.
It’s been very exciting, it’s always welcome. Will Gluck, our director, he really moves at a fast pace, you have to learn adjust to his way of direction. This is my third time working with him so I I’m used to it and I love it. But David was great, he jumped right in was, it’s always fun watching a new actor come in and seeing how they adjust, particularly with the animated stuff, it’s challenging and it can be tedious working with a thing like a CGI rabbit.

Had you done much CGI work before?
Not really, like a little bit here and there on the X-Men franchises, but nothing to this extent where I’m in an emotional relationship with something that’s not there. I’ve never done that in my life, where my whole actions are based on my imagination.

Was it more relaxed going in for the second movie, knowing what the rabbit was going to look like & what was required of you?
It was, you are maybe 10% more relaxed, but then sometimes once you’ve had success there’s more to lose, so you’re asking yourself if this is gonna be as good. So you’ve got further to fall. But technically I was more relaxed, because I know what it’s going to look like a little bit and it was so wonderful seeing it. I was like, ‘Wow, what a world’, you know, the payoff was huge. When we did finally see the film, it was cool.

What will audiences enjoy about this film?
It has a level of sophistication. I think that’s great for kids, you know, with the humour, and I think the animation just gets better and better. It’s so beautiful the work, they do at animal logic, and it’s about animals. It’s wonderful. It’s not about robots. It’s not about some video game, it’s not about guns, it’s about animals. It furthers the legacy of Beatrix Potter and has introduced her books to a whole new generation, which I know that Penguin has been delighted about. For me being a parent, it’s a really magical, really fun and funny film to share with the kids. And it’s about a rascal, like he’s kind of an antihero. There is a dark element, obviously to her books and it’s definitely explored in the films as well.

Did you wait to watch the first film in a cinema with an audience full of kids?
Oh, yeah. I always wait, particularly with a comedy or something that’s for kids or a genre thing. You want to have that experience of the talking and the getting up and the laughter, it’s like gorgeous, so I definitely wait. It’s really gratifying when you hear them laughing. What’s better than kids laughing?

Have you noticed any improvements with technology or the animation process between this film and the first one?
On set, it’s the same, I haven’t noticed anything particularly different. It was just probably a faster process this time because it was Will’s first time doing anything like that. So I think he understood the process better this time. You know, so everybody was a little faster.

What’s your favourite thing about your character?
I love eccentricity, her sort of mix of absolute self-possession. And then absolute self-doubt, I think was really endearing. And I think that’s sort of explored even more in this sequel. There’s a lot of opportunities with her to like, have fun. When Will pitched it to me I was thinking there was a lot of opportunity in there for some for some comedic elements. I think Domhnall and I were both looking for those and particularly now that we’re a couple, trying to find them together. And that was really fun I don’t know if anyone else will find it funny, but on set, we’re cracking ourselves up. Me and Domhnall were having a great time. So hopefully that’ll come across.

You said you loved reading the ‘Peter Rabbit’ stories when you were young. How do you think the movies reflect more than the story itself, but the atmosphere of Beatrix Potter?
Well, there’s a dark element to her work, that is an undercurrent throughout the whole thing and, Will (director) does try to pick up on that in the films. And I think the spirit of Peter as a character is really essentially essential. And I feel like he really captured that perfectly with James and him and their collaboration, I think he really captured that essence in the film from the book.

PETER RABBIT 2 is now showing in Irish cinemas