Abused Wife, Absent Mother, Strong Leader: 'Insurgent' Producers on Nuances of Naomi Watts' Evelyn
"We like that she's so strong, but not the cliche version of a strong, tough woman," said Lucy Fisher.
Evelyn Johnson is a new character in The Divergent Series, introduced in Insurgent and played by Naomi Watts. (Warning: spoilers ahead for non-book readers.)
Evelyn is Four's estranged mother, whom Tris believed to be dead. She leads the factionless, who join Dauntless and others to fight against Kate Winslet's Jeanine and the Erudite. Her character is complex and compelling, and her ulterior motives are questioned throughout Insurgent.
Producers and husband-wife team Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick talked to The Hollywood Reporter about casting Naomi Watts for the important role of Evelyn. "We like that she's so strong, but not the cliche version of a strong, tough woman — that it's more mysterious and it comes from within," said Fisher at Insurgent's NYC premiere on Monday.
"Evelyn is a really great part — the leader of the factionless, she abandoned her son, she was an abused woman, and now she's banded all these rebels together and leads them," Wick added.
Evelyn was married to Four's father, Marcus Eaton, who abused both her and Four. She faked her death to escape his abuse, leaving Four to think she was dead until she contacted him a year before they meet with Tris to talk rebellion. In the novel, Tris describes Evelyn as cold, until she sees Evelyn is conflicted about her relationship with her son, who resents Evelyn for leaving him with Marcus.
Fisher said Watts has read the books and "fell in love with it all."
"She's not known for playing a baddie, so that made us curious on what she'd bring to it," said Fisher. "We've always wanted to work with her, and we were just happy that she responded to the material the way she did."
As fans who have read Allegiant know — and those who see Insurgent can probably guess — Evelyn is about to become even more crucial in the upcoming films, as her struggle between her convictions and personal life intensifies in the dystopian society.
Wick is convinced Watts is up for the challenge. "We looked at a lot of different actors," he said. "The bar was pretty high with Kate Winslet being the former antagonist, but she just emerged as someone who had the presence, but above all was a really brilliant actor."