We saw Les Misérables at an early screening around a month ago. It. Was. Wonderful. As emotionally wrenching as it was true to the original, Les Mis exceeded all of our expectations (even for those of us who had seen it on stage a million times).
One of the highlights, apart from the obvious Javert/Valjean "Confrontation" and Anne Hathaway's stunning, heartbreaking rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream," was Samantha Barks, a stage actress who might have landed the most enviable first movie role, ever. She's a powerful Eponine, tugging at our heartstrings with her overlooked-friend-unrequited-love situation, and we're dying to see where she goes from here. In the meantime, we snagged some alone time with the 22-year-old Londoner, picking her brain about working with the all-star cast, her gorgeous hair, and that time she played this same role opposite Nick Jonas. Read on, and we'll see you at a Les Mis showing this week.
The movie was so emotional and beautiful, and we cried so many tears all the way through it. Being a theater person, was the live, on-camera singing hard for you, or was it just par for the course?
"There were aspects of it that felt comfortable for me — coming from theater, you'll always perform live — but there were aspects of it, like being up at five in the morning, that were much harder. I'm a theater girl so we're nocturnal, practically. And I've got to say, my neighbors hated me because warming up your voice at four in the morning is cruel. It was a new experience, for sure, because I've never done a film before. To have one of those cameras so close is thrilling for me. But to get to combine with live singing was so special."
What was your favorite scene to work on? Was it the big solo or something more surprising?
"The big solo, for me, is always gonna be such a special moment, to get to sing 'On My Own' on such an epic scale. But, oh gosh, you know, another scene I loved doing is 'A Little Fall of Rain' with Eddie [Redmayne]. I thought that was so much fun. It wasn't fun in a way, because it was very emotional, but something about working with him is incredible. He's this amazing actor. Watching him, and being around him, and he is so approachable that you'll never feel like an idiot after asking him questions, because he is such a good guy."
Speaking of your big solo, have you ever seen the episode of Dawson's Creek where Katie Holmes sings "On My Own"?
"No! When was it on? I feel like I was too young to be watching it. I love that song though, so I'd like to see it."
Overall, how were your nerves, walking into such a superstar cast?
"I was petrified. I'd never done a film, and to do it on this scale was certainly intimidating. [The rest of the cast] did everything they could to not be intimating, which is so amazing and it was such a lovely bunch of people. Plus, they were nervous, too! I was like, 'I know why I'm nervous, but you guys are amazing.' They were just that passionate about these roles, though."
It's so funny that everyone else was nervous. Did that sort of put you at ease?
"It did, because we all had something to bring to the table but we all had something to learn as well. I'd never done film before but I had musical theater experience. Eddie had so much film experience but hadn't done a musical before. Amanda had done a musical film, and she doesn't sing live very often because in Mamma Mia! they got to pre-record. So, it was really exciting to have that and share stories of our different experiences on set."
We heard you guys did epic Friday night sing-alongs in preparation for filming. Was that chill or intense/intimidating?
"It was super chill! That was an icebreaker because I remember being asked if I was coming to Russell [Crowe]'s dinner party and I was like, 'Yeah, absolutely.' Then, we all just started singing and playing the piano. Me and Annie sang a duet of 'Take Me Or Leave Me' [from Rent]. Really though, when you start singing, with Russ, with Annie, with all these people who, a few days ago were really intimating, you're suddenly bonded through a passion for music. We all felt so relaxed around each other. Annie got up and sang 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina.' We just felt free to do anything we could and that's what this movie needed. We needed to be comfortable with communicating through song about the world we're trying to live in."
What was your most memorable on-set moment, from this movie?
"There was one amazing moment that I'll never forget. We were all in the barricade and Tom Hooper said, 'Ten minutes of camera roll. Fill the barricades. Action.' People were throwing tables out of windows, wardrobes, and we had to assemble a barricade in ten minutes, on the spot. My heart was pounding and it was such an adrenaline rush. I felt so alive. They said 'Cut,' and everyone was like panting. That was one of the most amazing days of my life. I've never felt adrenaline like it."
We can't believe that stuff was really thrown down at you. We're pretty sure we saw a piano in that barricade...
"That was real. That piano probably narrowly missed my head."
Click through for Samantha's best beauty secrets, and a video of her phenomenal solo.
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
"I think I've been filled with such a great experience in this film that it's definitely made me hungry for more. I'd love the opportunity to get a fantastic film role if I'm lucky enough. Stage has got such a personal space in my heart but I'd love to be able to have a varied career in both."
Do you have a dream role, on the stage?
"The reason I started in musical theater was the role of Elphaba [in Wicked]. I love that role. It's a beautiful role."
You played this same role, or Eponine, in Les Mis on stage in London, with Nick Jonas. There was so much talk around it as far as, 'Should he be in this?' Do you think that was unfair or distracting at any point?
"It's weird, because the Internet is a new thing for me and I only take the positive bits from it. I use Twitter to communicate with supportive people and it's lovely. I'm very unaware of any kind of negative things that surround shows or my work. But, I just loved the 25th anniversary. It was such a wonderful moment of history for me and Les Mis."
Now, let's talk beauty for a second. You have phenomenal hair — how do you keep it so gorgeous and shiny?
"The most important secret: Don't over wash it. You shouldn't wash your hair every single day. I hate having my hair constantly cut, so if I'm getting it cut I really get the bare minimum. I always get highlights. Never go for an all-over dye because that can dry it out. I love volume, so for me, I love volumizing dry shampoo. Just have fun with your hair! Try new things and have fun. I love someone like Katy Perry because her hair is always so crazy and she's so theatrical with it. I love it."
Would you ever do something like that? Like color your hair pink?
"I'm a bit of a daredevil so if someone is like 'Dye your hair blue,' I'm like 'Okay!'. There is a streak in me that enjoys that kind of thing."
And here's Barks' big solo. Stunning, no?
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.