British actress Lily James didn’t talk for a week before belting out songs on the set of the new Mamma Mia! sequel amid fears of losing her voice.
The former Downton Abbey star reveals she has “struggled” with vocal issues on and off since finishing drama school, so the 29-year-old took drastic measures to ensure her singing voice would be in perfect condition for the movie musical.
“I lose my voice a lot,” she told People.com. “I have issues – it’s really scary and heartbreaking.”
Sharing her unusual preparations for the project, in which she plays a younger version of Meryl Streep’s character Donna, she said, “(I) didn’t speak for a week before we recorded. I went on steroids and didn’t talk.”
Instead, Lily used her silent time to revisit the original 2008 film, based on the stage musical inspired by ABBA’s pop classics, so she could pick up some of Streep’s onscreen personality traits.
“I watched Mamma Mia over and over again to channel the essence of what makes Donna so unique and brilliant and fearless and courageous,” the actress explained, admitting she tried to “mimic” some of Streep’s “physicality,” including her hand gestures.
She also studied a number of Streep’s “more comedic” past projects, including 1990’s Postcards from the Edge, which was based on the late Carrie Fisher’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name.
“Postcards from the Edge was useful because she sang (in it),” Lily noted, adding that Streep’s character, an actress called Suzanne Vale, was somewhat “manic” in the same vein as her Mamma Mia! character Donna, who displays “a ballsyness and scattiness” in the beloved franchise.
Working alongside Streep has since further inspired Lily to keep mixing up the kinds of projects she signs on for in the hopes of appealing diverse audiences.
“Like all great actors, Meryl is able to be a great comedian and break people’s hearts,” the Cinderella beauty remarked. “I think if you’ve want to keep it interesting, then you’ve got to keep it varied as repetition is the death of creativity.”
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which also features the return of Amanda Seyfried, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth, opens in cinemas this week (begs16Jul18).