Millie Bobby Brown is a force to be reckoned with. The 16-year-old actor not only stars as the title character of Sherlock Holmes’ sister in the new period adventure film “Enola Holmes,” but the movie also marks her first time as a producer. The double duty has left the “Stranger Things” actor feeling empowered. “Women need to be at the table, we need to be heard, our voices need to be listened to, we need to be part of the conversation and sometimes women need to be in charge,” Brown says on today’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “I think that we need to be understood.”
As does her character, Enola. She’s a rebellious young woman who refuses to be confined by Victorian gender norms as she flees her home in the country to find her eccentric mother (Helena Bonham Carter) in London. The film, which premieres on Netflix on Sept. 23, is based on Nancy Springer’s book series of the same name.
Variety caught up with Brown via Zoom from her home in Atlanta.
Were you familiar with the “Enola Holmes” book series?
I’d read the book a few years back, because my oldest sister, Paige, she read it and then told me to read it. So, I was familiar with it. I definitely knew the story. What I also knew is that I wanted to play her.
What do you like about Enola?
What don’t I like about Enola? She’s incredibly brave; she has the will to be vulnerable; her humor is funny. She kind of ends gender norms. She’s not afraid to dress up. She’s unapologetically herself, and I love that about her.
What did you learn about yourself playing Enola?
I learned that being alone is a good time to find yourself. I think for teenagers right now, it’s a challenging time because you’re afraid to be alone. You’re afraid to be lonely. It’s not nice to be lonely. But while filming this, I realized that actually the fact that she is alone, it helped her find herself. You don’t need thousands of people around you to keep you happy. You can make yourself happy. Definitely quarantine has helped me focus more on that, taking time for myself.
You’re also a producer on the movie.
I think it’s important to have young producers because it gives youth an opportunity to tell their stories. Age shouldn’t define whether you can do something or not. Young filmmakers should get the opportunity to tell their stories, and I’ve just been lucky enough to share mine. The producing conversation came around when my dad said, “You need to be a part of this as much as you can,” and I said, “You know, I completely agree.” It was really exciting because that meant I could be on-screen and still have my say off of screen. I’ve never had an opportunity like that before.
What does it feel like to have your voice heard in that way?
It was empowering. I mean, there’s a set of nerves that come with it, just because you have experienced producers that are on your set and you just have to kind of fit in somehow. But I had a great team, a crew that made me feel so comfortable with sharing my thoughts and ideas. I also had an amazing director, Harry Bradbeer, who made me feel very comfortable with expressing my opinion and thoughts and really valued them.
What’s the message of “Enola Holmes”?
There are so many. There’s a big message of feminism within the film, talking about how women were classed as uneducated back in the 1800s, and Enola was extremely educated, and so is her mother. She’s going into the city of London, where women aren’t listened to, nor respected, nor looked at as an equal. Enola is coming into it thinking, “How? Why?” She’s a new thinker; she’s a wild child. There’s so many messages in there that you have to look for and find your one, but mine is definitely the biggest message of all, which was feminism.
Could we consider Enola a superhero?
One hundred percent, yeah! I think she’s more of a superhero than [Brown’s “Stranger Things” character] Eleven.
Why do you say that?
Because you don’t have to have superpowers to be a superhero. I think that Audrey Hepburn was a superhero. I think she’s my superhero. It’s like Princess Leia — she’s my superhero too. I think Enola’s a superhero in her own right because she embraces every aspect of her flaws and her imperfections. That’s what makes people superheroes, when they can come to terms with the fact that they’re not perfect, but they’re unapologetically themselves. I love that. So she’s definitely a superhero. You don’t have to have superpowers to be one.
So, how many “Enola” movies are you signed up to do? Because, this is a franchise in the making.
I hope so. Let’s see how people respond to the first one. Let’s see if they fall in love with Enola as much as I have fallen in love, but there’s definitely much more of a story to be told.
I love your Instagram. I love that you’re outspoken, that you embraced the Black Lives Matter movement with a full heart. Why was that important for you?
In this climate, in this world, I loved that young people – and especially this movement specifically – it was amazing for them to create this movement. It definitely touched my heart, and I wanted to do something. So that’s why I posted a few Black-owned companies and things like that, so that they could take my platform – this is not about me – and to give them my platform and to say, “Listen, I understand I am privileged, and I understand that I won’t understand.” I’m in full support, and I’m very inspired that these young people are speaking out about the things that are important to them.
Now a fun question for you. We know you’re a big Kardashians fan. What did you think when they announced they were ending their reality show?
It’s very sad. I’m so sad. I’ve been watching them for years, but everything must come to an end.
What are you going to miss about them?
Everything. I mean, just the fact that they are very funny. Oh, my gosh, I’m going to miss lots. I enjoyed it so much. Every Sunday night, I was obsessed.