Monday 27th June 2016
Two actors walk into a room…
Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol arrive in New York to audition for the parts of Tina and Queenie Goldstein, the two lead witches in Fantastic Beasts.
By this stage, Eddie Redmayne has already been cast as Newt Scamander. Director David Yates is looking for a very specific type of chemistry: the natural, inimitable kind between sisters.
‘We were introduced and it was kind of like, “Okay Katherine, this is Alison. Alison, this is Katherine. Why don’t you have a seat on that couch and be sisters?” We were both like, “Right, okay!”’ Alison tells me, her eyes alight and her Queenie ringlets dancing a little beside one ear.
‘And so I sat down and something happened: I just looked at Katherine’s face and felt incredibly empathetic towards her. In this scene, she – Tina – was suffering and I could see that. I started playing with her hair, and plaiting her hair, and it was a really emotional moment for both of us.’
There was something indelible between them from that day – a sweet rapport that lasted through to the final shot of filming. You can sense it in the trailer, if you watch closely – just wait until you see more of them together. When you strip away all the suspense and drama, theirs is a story about that very special alliance only sisters truly know.
‘You know when you meet somebody and you just know, “We don’t know each other yet but we will. Where have you been all my life?” [Katherine and I] spent a lot of time together after that day, but you don’t have to push that connection if it happens naturally,’ says Alison.
Katherine remembers the couch moment too, of course. When I ask her about it, she smiles conspiratorially for a moment and tells me something Alison doesn’t know about that day.
‘The truth is that I saw Alison in a scene first. I got to watch her work a little bit before we did the improvisation, so I already knew she was a really good actor,’ Katherine says.
‘So I went into the improvisation knowing I was with someone who would be able to hold up their side of the bargain. With things like that when you’re nervous and you’re auditioning, to know you can trust your partner gives you confidence you might not otherwise have in that situation.
'I think that made a big difference. I don’t know if I’d have been able to sit down and play like that. Just seeing this brief interaction, I was like, “Oh she knows what she’s doing”. But also, she’s so sweet-faced; feeling close to her just sort of happened naturally.’
Besides which, Katherine says, being a sister in real life is training enough.
‘I have a whole life’s history of that feeling of being a sister. That’s really what it comes down to with acting like this: it’s trust and love. We both felt that connection on the first day, Alison and I. But also, I’ve got a sister. I am a sister, so it wasn’t tricky to call on that. Sometimes my sister and I have come downstairs wearing the same outfit or we’ve called our mom at exactly the same time. There’s something witchy about being sisters anyway, don’t you think?’ she says, a sly grin creeping across her face.
Katherine’s absolutely right, of course. There’s nothing quite like it. J.K. Rowling wrote that relationship impeccably into her screenplay, David Yates recognised it between Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol, and two actors walked out of that audition room as sisters.