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Interview: Lily James Celebrates Yesterday

The popular actress plays a girl in a world where The Beatles never existed.

Jun 24, 2019

By: Lynn Barker

In the new film Yesterday, British-born actress Lily James of Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesCinderella and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again stars as a girl whose crush introduces Beatles songs to a world in which they never existed.  It’s a wild story premise and Lily, who grew up hearing the mega-popular band at home, had tons of fun re-creating their music with star Himesh Patel who plays Jack, the only person on Earth who remembers the group and becomes popular singing their songs.  

Yesterday Trailer


A blonde Lilly James as CinderellaA blonde Lilly James as CinderellaCourtesy of Disney

Lily enjoyed working with popular singer Ed Sheeran on the film and, after singing as young Donna in the successful last “Mama Mia” movie, she hopes to do more musical work in future.

Lily in Mama Mia: Here We Go AgainLily in Mama Mia: Here We Go AgainCourtesy of Universal Studios

Now, Lily is in Nice, France working on a re-boot of the classic mystery movie Rebecca, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, a haunting tale of a young woman who marries into a world of murder and intrigue.

For now…let’s talk Beatles!

Q: What was your introduction to The Beatles?

  • Lily: I think my introduction was really through my family, through the music that was played in my house growing up. My parents had amazing taste in music and The Beatles was a part of my upbringing really. Dad used to make these mix tapes back in the day and The Beatles was on there. It’s just something that I listened to in my house growing up.

Q: Do you have a favorite Beatles song or album?

  • Lily: I think Revolver is my favorite album. It’s just how each song goes (into the next). I hear “Taxman” then it goes into “Eleanor Rigby”. I love it. I love “Here Comes the Sun”. If that song comes on I will instantly feel happy.

Ellie (Lily) watches now-famous Jack do an interviewEllie (Lily) watches now-famous Jack do an interviewCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: It’s cool that the filmmakers actually shot some of Yesterday in modern-day Liverpool where the Beatles started. It looks pretty today.  

  • Lily: Oh my God, it’s stunning and it’s really the cultural capital of England if I’m correct in saying that. It’s really a special place and I don’t think you could make a film about the Beatles without going to Liverpool. It would just be wrong.

Ellie (Lily) is thrilled when Jack's fame growsEllie (Lily) is thrilled when Jack's fame growsCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Tell us how you got involved and what interested you most about being a part of this film.

  • Lily: Initially I was certainly excited when the script came through because I knew it was by Richard Curtis and I just adore him. I’d just worked with him on “Mamma Mia” so I was racing to turn over every page and then also to work with (Director) Danny Boyle who is an absolute visionary and total legend of cinema so I was excited to see what they’d do together.

Q: You have a wonderful co-star in this who has an amazing voice. Can you talk a little about working with Himesh Patel? You get to do a little bit of singing with him.

  • Lily: It was great. I am just in awe of him actually. This part was thrust upon him and he had to sing like eighteen songs of The Beatles and he just did it with total ease and purity and honesty and he was so chill and I absolutely loved working with him.

Clueless Jack (Himesh) is grateful for Ellie's helpClueless Jack (Himesh) is grateful for Ellie's helpCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Did you have a favorite scene to shoot?

  • Lily: There was a scene where they were recording all the music in the recording studio by the railway tracks and we are kind of winging it and it’s meant to evoke that feeling that the early Beatles must have had when they were creating that music. It was pouring out of them and they were all coming up with different ideas. There was such a good vibe and we were dancing and freestyling and singing. That was probably the most enjoyable scene to do.

Lily with Himesh in the recording booth sceneLily with Himesh in the recording booth sceneCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: You get to work with a modern pop icon as well Ed Sheeran in this. Were you a fan of his beforehand and what was it like working with him?

  • Lily: I stand in total awe of Ed Sheeran because he came in and, like Himesh, very relaxed and so open and so up for a laugh and he was brilliant. It’s very hard to act as yourself actually. I would think it would be easy but it’s actually difficult. He was a really bright guy and he was kind enough to give us his sets and his gigs and his audience and his stage and to watch him perform is just incredible in front of 60,000 people. He’s just this one guy on a guitar. He has so many hits too. Song after song the stadium, the entire audience of 60,000 people is singing it back at him. It was pretty amazing.

Lily in a lunch sceneLily in a lunch sceneCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Do you think there is any danger that people will forget that The Beatles ever existed?

  • Lily: Oh, that’s never gonna happen.

Q: Ellie and Jack have a little bit of a problem getting past the friend zone. They’ve known each other and been friends forever and Ellie has had this crush on him forever as well. He just doesn’t see it or doesn’t want to see it…

  • Lily: Or he’s stupid. What’s the matter with him? For God’s sake.

Will Jack ever get that Ellie (Lily) likes him?Will Jack ever get that Ellie (Lily) likes him?Courtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Are you kind of shy like your character Ellie to reveal your feelings or if you like someone, you just tell them?

  • Lily: I don’t think you ever know what you’re gonna do. I’m a pretty outgoing person and Ellie is pretty outgoing but I don’t think love is rational. You make crazy choices. You behave in ways that you wouldn’t expect of yourself. You kind of can’t control it. So, I think she gets stuck. Love is all about timing and I think that Ellie and Jack just keep missing each other so it was quite an interesting dynamic to play that. I don’t know but I don’t think I’d wait that long to tell someone those feelings. I’m too impatient .

Lily and Jack grow closerLily and Jack grow closerCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Are you excited about taking on the iconic role in Rebecca?  I think it’s been made three times already. Have you thought about how to put your stamp on the character?

  • Lily: Yeah, of course. To be honest, I love the book so much and I kind of want to stick as close to the book as I can. But, at the same time we have to trust that our version is our version. Have it take wing and fly and let it be what it’s going to be and take it moment by moment. I’ve read the book seven or eight times so I feel like she’s in me. I’m kind of terrified but I’m sure it will work out.

Lily in Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesLily in Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Q: Are you working on anything music-related at this point?

  • Lily: No, no. Not at the moment I’m now but I love music so whenever a project comes along that has music in it again. I would be thrilled.

Lily (center) with Himesh PatelLily (center) with Himesh PatelCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: It’s great that you could bring The Beatles to another generation.

  • Lily: I’m glad too. I think this film is the perfect way to celebrate and honor their music in a way that isn’t just doing a biopic. I think that would be difficult with The Beatles.

See Lily James in Yesterday in theaters Friday, June 28th.

Yesterday Movie PosterCourtesy of Universal Studios
What Do You Think?

Are you a fan of The Beatles music? Did you see Lily James in some of her other films? What if you were the only person who remembered The Beatles music? Would you try to sing it? Share your feelings with everyone with a comment and/or write something on your Kidzworld profile page.