Audra McDonald, who stars as a sassy wardrobe in Disney's live-action remake of "Beauty and the Beast," gave her co-star and the movie's lead some serious props and her parenting stamp of approval at a recent press conference for the film, which opens March 17.
When asked if she liked what the film says to children, the mom of two daughters didn't hesitate to praise the newest incarnation of Belle.
"My daughter is someone who now asks for people to donate money to charities for her birthday gifts instead of presents, and that's because of you, Emma," McDonald said to Watson. "So knowing full well that Emma was going to make sure that Belle was somebody who was
independent, who was strong, who was educated, who was sticking up for girls
and women, and who does all the rescuing in the film—that’s why I knew it was
going to be important for me to be a part of and for my kids to see."
Watson has become a symbol of girl power since she starred as the brainy Hogwarts student Hermione in the "Harry Potter" film franchise. The 26-year-old actress has since gone on to not only graduate from Brown University but also become a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, championing girls and gender equality.
And she brought that girl power to her role as Belle.
"When I knew I was taking on this role, I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values,
that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today," Watson said.
"In our film, [Belle is] actually an activist within her
own community," Watson continued. "She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to
read, and moments like that where you could see her expanding beyond
just her own little world and trying to kind of grow it, I loved that."
While championing girls and reading within her tiny French village, the character of Belle was also an outsider in her community, something Watson said she understood.
That said, she also wanted to encourage young people to find meaningful connections.
"What I would say for anyone that feels like an
outsider in their environment, there is a big, wide world out there with so
many different people with diverse opinions and perspectives and interests, and
go out there and find your tribe, go find your kindred spirits, they do exist," she said. "Pursue the things that you love and that
you’re really passionate about. They’ll be there."