'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again's Alexa Davies on playing a young Julie Walters: "I'm star struck by her"
In the sequel, the Welsh actress brings to life a young Rosie - previously portrayed by Julie Walters - adeptly lending her signature characteristics in the Abba-centric musical.
While most Hollywood newcomers would be on tenterhooks to be starring alongside the likes of Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Cher, and Lily James, 22-year-old Alexa Davies, the freshest face on the cast of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again', was hardly a bunch of nerves. And a major part of this credit, Davies attributes to the eager and welcoming cast of the hit musical, who returned this summer to transport our hearts away on a Mediterranean rendezvous. "The legacy cast is the nicest bunch I’ve ever met," the actress recalls.
In the sequel, the Welsh actress brings to life a young Rosie - one of Donna's closest friends previously portrayed by Julie Walters - and while a great deal of Rosie's trademark wit and humor remains intact, Davies quite adeptly lends her signature characteristics as well. In doing so, however, the actress remains vocal about the amount of research and Walter's influence that went into her performance in the tentpole production. In fact, she doesn't even refrain from calling the 68-year-old BAFTA-winning actress her "hero".
And the impact is pretty evident at the box-office. Seated comfortably at #2, the Mamma Mia sequel has already amassed an impressive $125 million globally and is still going strong with a total of $15 million in its sophomore weekend stateside. With BO charts projecting the movie as a sure shot summer blockbuster, Meaww took the opportunity to speak with Davies about playing a younger version of Rosie, the Abba-centric musical and her experience of being part of an absolutely star-studded cast.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is all about exploring how it all began, and that's what we are curious about. How did you land the role in the sequel and what was your first reaction after being chosen to play young Rosie?
Alexa Davies: First of all, I couldn’t believe they were making a new one! I also couldn’t believe they wanted to see me for young Rosie, I look nothing like Julie Walters! But they did and so I went. I had three auditions which started off by doing a couple of scenes for [Mamma Mia 2 director] Ol Parker and Nina Gold and then doing my best to sing ‘I Have A Dream’. The two rounds that came after were similar but more daunting each time.
Tell us a bit about your role, how similar or different is young Rosie from Julie Walters' iteration? Would you say your version of Rosie possesses the same wit and humor which has clearly become a trademark of the character?
AD: Obviously matching my Rosie up to Julie’s was very important to me as I wanted the audience to feel comfortable with us sharing the role. If my version of her differed too much I think it would have been a bit jarring to watch. People change a lot over 20 years but I wanted to keep that fire that Julie gave her. She’s definitely still very witty and funny in her early twenties! At least I hope she is. But it was mostly fun to play around with being a little naïve.
Will it be too far a stretch to presume that you were inspired by Walters? Please share your on-set experience with her? Did you take notes from her, or did you go purely by research?
AD: Julie has been my hero since I was very young. My parents taped ‘Behind the Scenes of Acorn Antiques The Musical’ and I used to put it on each night when I went to bed. I’m star struck by her every time. She is so gracious and lovely. She’s everything I hoped she would be. I went by my own research as I wanted young Rosie to be my own. That being said, spending days watching Julie’s other works and interviews from the 80s will always be the best research I’ve ever had to do.
Working on this sequel means you got to share the screen space with some of the biggest Hollywood stars. What was the experience? Did you feel it was more nerve-wracking or inspiring?
AD: It was bizarre! I was terrified at first. I kept thinking I was in everybody’s way but I couldn’t move because I had to stand there. That was my mark! The legacy cast is the nicest bunch I’ve ever met. They were so welcoming and so eager for us to have as much fun on this film as they did on the first. They took all of the nerves away by being such kind people and for that, I will always be grateful.
The trailer features some of the most exotic scenes. Which were your favorite places/locations? We are guessing, filming might have been like enjoying one big holiday - is that right?
AD: It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Vis (Croatia) is the most beautiful island I’ve ever been on. It’s magical. My favorite location was the market where Jess and I have a scene together. They transformed this little nook of Vis into a beautiful thriving 70’s marketplace. It was amazing!
Let's rewind a bit... please share your journey through Hollywood. What inspired you to take up acting as a career?
AD: Well, I’ve actually never been to Hollywood. I’ve never been to America at all! But I can tell you that my desire to act started when I was about 9 years old. That was when I first properly figured out that Christopher Ecclestone was being PAID to run around as The Doctor! From that point on I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to do anything else. Obviously years later I understood that it was harder than it looked, but I’ve loved every second of my career so far. Let’s hope it lasts!
Have you taken any formal acting lessons? Or is it a more of an on-the-go experience?
AD: No, not really. I went to an amateur dramatics group in North Wales growing up but I was lucky enough to start working as an actress when I was 16. I learn something new with every day of work that I do. I find that so exciting.
You are no stranger to the small screen as well - from the look of your filmography, it appears that your more substantial roles have been in 'Raised by Wolves' and 'Cradle to Grave' - do you have any plans to get back to TV? Any shows in the line-up?
AD: Yes! Films are great and 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' has been one of the best experiences of my life, but I think my heart will always be in television. I’m working on a new TV drama now. It’s very different from MM and I’m very excited about it. Unfortunately, that’s all I can say for now.
Which one do you prefer - film or TV (of course, we understand, right now all eyes are on your big screen release)?
AD: The only real differences are time and money. Studio films have much more than TV, independent films can sometimes have less than TV. But the process and the work is basically the same. I love TV. I love how fast it can be.
Expectations have been high from the Mamma Mia sequel from the very beginning (and the film too has proven to be a summer blockbuster), what are your expectations for this role?
AD: I’m not really expecting anything. I’ve probably peaked. Mamma Mia gave my one of the best summers of my life. It gave me new lifelong friends. It gave me the chance to share a role with my hero and to dance and sing Abba songs with Benny Andersson. How could I possibly ask for anything more.
What kind of roles do you see yourself doing after Rosie?
AD: Any really! I like a big mix of things. I might leave the singing and dancing to the professionals for a while though. It’s much harder than they make it look!
If a third installment of Mamma Mia were to be made with more Rosie flashbacks, would be open to reprising your role?
AD: Of course! I love playing Rosie. She’s so feisty and loveable. So witty too! How could I resist it?