The Chronicles of Narnia is a franchise that has changed countless lives. The original books are genuine literary classics for the ages. And the 2005 movie The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe brought an entirely new generation into the world of Narnia.
It also brought a new generation of actors to our attention, including Georgie Henley. She played the young Lucy and basically knocked our socks off with her amazing performance.
While she returned for the two film sequels, Henley has largely dropped off the pop culture radar. However, we’ve discovered where that “little girl” is now, and you won’t believe how much she has grown up.
How Georgie Henley was cast in ‘Narnia’
Henley is very frank about how being cast in the movie changed her life. And she is equally frank about the fact that she very nearly wasn’t cast at all!
In a 2018 WhatsOnStage interview, Henley revealed that she didn’t even know she was auditioning for the billionaire-dollar franchise.”It was my drama teacher at Moorfield School in Bradford who actually started the process. It came out of nowhere, at first I thought I was auditioning for a local pantomime at the Alhambra in Bradford!”
Henley also said that her parents nearly ended her movie career before it started! “My parents at one point took me out of the process because they had reservations about the whole experience, they’d heard about how it can corrupt young child actors.”
Fortunately, her sisters managed to convince them to change their minds, and Henley ended up landing the life-changing role. But her biggest challenge when the sequels finished up was creating a post-Narnia life for herself.
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As an adult, she advocates for child stars
Ironically enough, Henley began to understand her parents’ original criticism that acting can negatively affect a child’s life. She ended up using her Twitter platform in 2018 to warn fans about judging child stars too harshly. Henley wrote, “Remember these are still children, going through whatever they need to go through to become whatever they’re going to be.”
She acknowledged that she was lucky to have supportive parents and also lucky she didn’t have to worry about social media when she was a child actor. Henley now uses her privilege and experience to advocate for a number of issues such as social justice, mental health, and self-esteem.
And, like Matilda child-star-turned-advocate Mara Wilson, Henley has no love for Donald Trump. In 2018, she told Theatre Weekly that Trump was the “epitome” of “intolerance” and “incompetence.”
Going to college reignited her love of acting
Where do you go when you leave Narnia behind? In Henley’s case, the answer was “back to school.”
It was difficult being a child star and going to school, and the young Henley endured some bullying from fellow students. In 2018, she told WhatsOnStage that this convinced her that she “couldn’t really do theatre” while focusing on her education.
That all changed when she went to college. Henley was accepted to prestigious Cambridge University, and this reignited her love of acting. In 2016, she told Varsity that she planned to use her college years to “focus on experimentation, especially with theatre.”
Unlike other child actors, she was determined to not be typecast.
She’s very selective about her roles
One of the reasons that you might not be familiar with Henley is that she has only appeared in a handful of major roles. However, this is deliberate: she is very selective about the roles that she plays.
Why so picky? In 2018, she told WhatsOnStage, “I do find it very difficult to find roles that I as a woman would want to see portrayed — 80 percent of the roles that I read I just go ‘really?’”
This all goes back to Narnia, as Lucy was a well-developed character with her own arc. Now, Henley wants “to avoid being there as a device, so the lead actor can learn something. I want characters with journeys.”
She’s started directing her own films
Another reason you’re less likely to see Henley on screen is very simple. Like “Ginnie Weasley” actress Bonnie Wright, it’s because she is getting comfortable behind the camera!
It all started in 2016, when Henley wrote, directed, and even crowdfunded a short film called Tide. Since then, she has worked behind the scenes on other films and plays when she’s not busy starring in them.
To Henley, this is all connected in terms of telling the stories she is passionate about. She told Varsity in 2016 that “it’s difﬁcult for women to be taken seriously in the industry…. You just have to put yourself out there and believe in your work. You have to convey that you have a story and a message, and that’s what I want to do: whether I’m acting, writing or directing, I want to tell stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told.”
From screen to stage
As much as she loves film, it looks like Henley’s main passion may be theatre. Her professional theatre debut was in the play Angry in 2018, and she ended up striking a real chord with critics.
Despite the play itself getting middling reviews, many critics highlighted Henley’s performance as outstanding. In their 2018 review, WhatsOnStage noted that “Henley’s physical control and ability to construct countless individuals feels uncannily effortless.” Furthermore, such a graceful debut performance “bodes well for the future.”
A future without Narnia
If you haven’t been keeping track, Narnia is about the blow up all over again. That’s because Netflix is adapting the beloved film and TV series. However, Henley will have no part of this. The closest connection she has to Narnia is her ongoing friendship her different onscreen siblings.
Fortunately, Henley has some new fantasy worlds to dive into. She has been cast in the Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon. She also stars as Meg Tudor in the Starz limited series The Spanish Princess, which concludes in fall 2020.
While Henley has had an amazing few years of experimenting with writing, directing, and stage acting, it looks like she’s coming back to the mainstream in a big way. And frankly, we can’t wait to see more!