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INTERVIEW: James McAvoy Is a Nerd for His Roles

James McAvoy at NYCC

There has been a lifelong love of James McAvoy for many millennials. From his role as Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to things like Robbie in Atonement and all the way on to Professor Charles Xavier, McAvoy is no stranger to the nerd space. So when it came to New York Comic-Con, I was excited to talk to the actor who was there to promote season 3 of His Dark Materials.

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McAvoy plays Lord Asriel, the estranged father of Lyra and a character that comes in and out of her life in the series in the same way that he does in Philip Pullman’s novels. And McAvoy is really no stranger to adaptations and so at the roundtable for the HBO series, I asked him what has been his favorite part of existing in this fan space as someone who has done a lot of fandom work, especially in novel fandoms, and he shared his own love for the novels and his own fandom in response.

“Getting to play a character that I’ve spent a lot of time with. And loved reading. I’ve read these books three times and as much as Asriel comes and goes in the books, he was one main things about these books that stuck with me,” McAvoy said. “So when I heard that they were making it and that there wasn’t a part for me in it, because the person casting it was one of my best mates and she didn’t mention it to me like that so I was like ‘oh okay cool’ and we had a really long conversation about the whole show and all the characters and who can play that part and my name never came up, and then six months later she was like ‘how would you feel about playing Asriel?’ And I was like ‘I’m in, when do you start?'”

McAvoy’s excitement for this world and Pullman’s work is clear but we also got to talk a bit about his love of fandoms in general and he shared his excitement for all the “nerdy” roles he’s played. “Honestly, getting to play him was a dream come true and I’ve had that a few times in my career. Getting to play Mr. Tumnus way way way back, getting to play Leto Atreides II in Dune even more way back. Getting to play Professor X, I’ve had as a fan of these properties, I’ve lived many dreams.”

And honestly, speaking to McAvoy was a dream come true for me. If only I could have shared that not only was I the role of Lucy Penvensie in a production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardobe in college, but also that Atonement was our favorite movie in the theatre group I was in. It was so lovely seeing McAvoy embrace his nerdom in our chat at the roundtable and I can’t wait to see what famed bad dad Lord Asriel has in store for us for season 3 of His Dark Materials.

(image: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for ReedPop)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh.

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