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Interview: Emily Mortimer on the Magic of ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

December 19, 2018Ben MK

They say a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. But with Mary Poppins Returns, there's no additional sweetener required to make this delightful family musical more enjoyable.

The follow-up to Disney's 1964 classic sees Emily Blunt stepping into the role first made famous by Julie Andrews, as the magical and mysterious nanny returns to 17 Cherry Tree Lane to help the now grown-up Banks children, Michael and Jane (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer), save their family home from foreclosure. Along the way, the trio — who are joined by Michael's three children (Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson and Nathanael Saleh) and a lamplighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) — discover that the key to their problems may have been right under their noses all along.

I caught up with actress Emily Mortimer at the Canadian premiere of Mary Poppins Returns, to chat about her love for the original film and what it was like making the sequel, as well as to find out which song among the movie's practically perfect, infinitely sing-along-worthy soundtrack is her favorite.

Are you a big fan of the original film?

Mortimer: Well, I love the original movie. I think the original movie was a big, huge part of everybody's childhood — everybody, from my own children's to my mother to my own. I haven't met anyone that didn't like the original Mary Poppins. I'm not necessarily a huge musical theatre aficionado, but I loved Mary Poppins. I think it was partly because of the character of Mary — she's so enigmatic and strange, and you wonder about her, and can't quite place her and don't quite know what she is and where she goes to and where she comes from. And so she's continually enigmatic and fascinating, and I think that's why the movie has held such mystery for people and such fascination for people all through these years.

What was it like working with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the rest of the cast?

Mortimer: Beautiful. I think that [director] Rob Marshall created an atmosphere on-set that was something just very special and extraordinary. He made us feel that we were all there for the right reasons, and he was making the movie from love, not cynicism. And so was everybody. He managed to cast these people who are all geniuses at what they do, from Emily [Blunt] down. And yet, they're all incredibly nice people. And it's rare to meet very, very, very talented people who are also extremely nice. [laughs] But on this movie, everybody was, so it was a total pleasure.

Do you have a favorite song from the movie?

Mortimer: God, that's a really good question. I love Lin's opening song, "Underneath the Lovely London Skies." I love "The Cover is Not the Book." I think maybe "The Cover is Not the Book" is my favorite song. The music for this movie is just sensational, and people are gonna flip over it. The songs are as good as the original, I really believe that.

Mary Poppins Returns is now in theatres. Photo credit: Captive Camera

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