When you wish upon a star, a Blue Fairy might appear before you (and if you’re lucky), with Cynthia Erivo singing the classic theme song we all know and love. In the live-action remake of “Pinocchio”, the 35-year-old Tony winner plays the fairy godmother who answers Geppetto’s prayer and brings the Pinocchio puppet to life.
In this interview, the actress talks about being approached by filmmaker Robert Zemeckis and what his vision for the Blue Fairy was. Besides talking about her character’s aesthetics, Cynthia also recalls the magical moment when she sang live during filming. Scroll down to read more.
Q: Do you remember the first time you saw the original movie?
A: Well, that was a long time ago. I want to say I was maybe about nine when I saw the original. I just remember being kind of blown away by it the first time. I’d never seen anything like it.
Q: How did you come on board on this project?
A: My agent told me that Robert Zemeckis was interested in talking to me about playing the Blue Fairy. I just loved his vision for her and what he wanted. And I asked what he might want her to look like. And he said, ‘Like you” And I said, ‘Do you want the short hair?’ And he said, “The same short hair. It all works.” And I was like, “Okay, great.’ So I came on board because he asked me to. I loved the project. I loved the song she gets to sing I, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Q: How did he describe your character, the Blue Fairy, to you?
A: He said he wanted her to be both sweet and kind, but also pragmatic and practical. And there’s like an almost edge to her, but there is a warmth in her as well. He wanted this beautiful mix of a lot of qualities in this one character. I liked the challenge of being able to do that.
Q: Like all children’s tales, “Pinocchio” contains some life lessons. What would you say they are?
A: The story is about truth and honesty and wishes coming true in ways that you didn’t realise that they could be true. Sometimes what you wish for isn’t necessarily what you get because it’s best for you and other times you need to work for the wishes you wish. There are lessons in it that teach us about not just being honest but being truthful and true to oneself. Also, it’s about knowing that mistakes can happen, and you can make mistakes, but you can also own those mistakes and go back and fix them if you want to. It’s like second chances for everyone.
Q: What is your character of the Blue Fairy’s role in this?
A: The Blue Fairy’s role is to help to shepherd Pinocchio into learning about what honesty looks like. She tries to grant the wish that he Geppetto wants. I guess she’s a bit of a teacher in that sense.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what she looks like?
A: We wanted her to feel sort of whimsical and otherworldly. We still wanted to keep the blue, but we wanted to make it feel magical all the way around in everything from the make up to the hair. There are crystals in my hair and crystals on my ears. And I was able to keep a lot of my piercings in but just replaced with really beautiful earrings that the costume designer made. We tried loads of different things about what could work and what might not. The dress is just layers and layers of silk. We wanted it to feel ethereal and whimsical and as fairy-like as possible.
Q: What was the shooting like?
A: I was quite lucky because I did mine almost in a day or two, to be honest. It was in that massive hangar, but the room was completely blue. I was flying and they hooked me up to this machine that moved me all around. It was wonderful. Robert asked if I wanted to do the scene in parts or learn it like a monologue. And I said, because I’m a theatre kid that I’d love to learn it as a monologue, and that’s how I did it. We shot it sort of like in about five or six different takes. It was really fun. I sang live on set as well, and it was really lovely.
Q: Tell me about singing live.
A: I am stubborn. So, if there is singing involved in a film, I prefer to sing live. I also wanted to give everyone in the room something fun, something good to listen to. And it was just a lovely moment to be able to sing it in the scene.
Q: I understand you surprised the crew when you sang “When You Wish Upon a Star” live on set.
A: I think I did. Robert knew I was going to do it. We had talked about it. I thought that he had told everybody else, but when it happened, people were like, ‘Huh? What’s happening? Is that the recording or is it her? And it was really nice. It happened to be someone’s birthday that day, and so it was also like a birthday gift.
Q: How would you sum up your experience making “Pinocchio?”
A: I just had a really good time doing it. It was really fun. I like this character a lot. I was really excited about playing her.
“Pinocchio” will launch on 8th September 2022, exclusively on Disney+.