Thursday 27th Oct 2016
Katherine Waterston plays Tina Goldstein in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Here, she chats with the Pottermore Correspondent about Tina’s secret dance moves, and what she loves about J.K. Rowling’s characters.
Katherine welcomes me up a set of three narrow stairs into her trailer. She’s still in costume, wearing Tina Goldstein’s sensible trousers and a pyjama top. ‘The idea is that I have to run out of the house, straight from bed,’ she says of the scene she’s just filmed.
There’s an open suitcase on the sofa, scripts on the floor, a lone teabag left on the kitchenette counter. It’s precisely the gentle disarray you’d expect to see inside an actor’s on-set refuge.
Katherine’s serene face is minimally made up and her dark brown bob sort-of wisps at the sides. Like her character, her demeanour suggests a certain pragmatism, kindness and earnestness.
In fact, the single loveliest thing I’ve seen during my time on set is Katherine preparing to shoot a high-octane scene with Eddie Redmayne. Just before she steps in front of the camera, Katherine has a private ritual to get into character: she does a few steps of the Charleston.
In case you didn’t know, the Charleston is a 1920s dance comprising jaunty little movements of arms and legs, backwards and forwards on the spot. It evokes the era beautifully.
‘Oh yeah,’ she says, laughing generously when I mention that I spotted her doing it one day on set. ‘That...’
A moment passes as Katherine decides how much to tell me.
‘It's grounding, having a ritual like that, because every day on set unexpected things happen. There’s a lot of information to process and a lot of distractions, and we are hired to remain focused in all that chaos,’ she says.
‘Sometimes that comes naturally; other days you need to feel more rooted to the character or the performance. So I do something for every job that connects me to the spirit of the character. It mustn't overtake the mood, just make me feel a part of her. It's a physical expression of her inner life.’
Is it always the Charleston, I ask, or is that a Tina Goldstein special?
‘Oh god no, the Charleston is just for Tina. She doesn’t get to have a lot of fun in her life. In the movie she gets to have fun, but in her life she’s quite lonely and she isolates [herself] a lot and she struggles with self-doubt. I like the idea that she has this little dancer in her waiting to get out, she has this spirit in her.’
Since reading the script, Katherine has spent a lot of time in her character’s sensible shoes. When we meet Tina in the film, she’s lost her job as an Auror and she’s at somewhat of an impasse in her life; the career woman without a career. She’s living with her sister, Queenie, in New York City. She’s ambitious, she’s dedicated, she’s strong and fragile all at once. She’s a deep, complex human being.
‘That’s the great thing about J.K. Rowling’s characters,’ Katherine tells me. ‘There’s always more to them than you expect. Tina’s not just bashful or awkward, and she also has a lot of courage and conviction. Those qualities are together in one person and that seems more true to my experience of what human beings are like. We’re all a jumbled mess.
‘The script is clever in that way. It’s rooted in truth. I normally don’t respond so well to innocent and lovely things. I think, “Come on, let’s get on with it.” But there’s something about this script and the way that J.K. Rowling writes it... It’s tender without being saccharine, ever. I like to think there’s this really joyous person in Tina, but she hasn’t figured out how to get that out into the world yet. Her life hasn’t worked out like that. She doesn’t have the time for it, she hasn’t figured out how to bring it out yet – she’s too busy focusing on her dreams to enjoy life.’
Is that something that she, Katherine, identifies with? How much of Katherine is there in Tina?
‘That’s something I relate to,’ she says, thinking. ‘I was very focused on my work in my twenties. I didn’t go gallivanting too much. There’s something of that in Tina too. She knows what she wants to be doing and how to get there, but she doesn’t play much.’
And that’s what those silent Charleston moves are all about: that streak of contained wildness. Both Katherine and Tina are resolute young women. They’re introspective, gentle and fiercely good at what they do. But there’s a rogue dancer inside them both.
‘I like to think that every now and then Tina sneaks into somewhere where no one knows her and she just rips it up on the dance floor for 10 minutes and then she says, “Okay, I got it,” and goes to bed. That’s her little release. She’s totally free and then it's, “Okay I’ve got to go back to work.” We’ll see if that ever comes out.’
And I like to think that Katherine does precisely that, too. I like to think she’s this meticulous, measured actor who goes out and busts some moves on a dance floor somewhere from time to time, between scenes.