This is what happened to the girl who played Luna in Harry Potter

It seems like only yesterday that Evanna Lynch lit up the screen as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies. But in actuality, it was over a decade ago that we first got a taste of Lynch's keen acting talents — and she became an icon for self-professed weirdos everywhere. Where did all that time go?

While it might be impossible to score an iconic part quite like that again, Lynch hasn't been resting on her laurels, or hiding from the public eye. Rather, she's been busy with a variety of roles, appearances, and activities, steadily making her mark the world of acting and beyond. And she's cinched roles in live theater, television, and film, showing just how well-rounded her skills are. Lynch has also been outspoken on issues that are important to her, and is committed to making the world a better place in her own small way. So without further ado, here's what happened to the girl who played Luna in Harry Potter.

She grew up "close to nature and surrounded by cows and sheep"

Although it can be hard to imagine Lynch as anyone but Luna Lovegood, she's actually a three-dimensional human being with her own origin story. Lynch is a native of Ireland, specifically of Termonfeckin, a small village in County Louth, according to The Irish Times. She has three siblings, and her parents were educators by profession. 

By all accounts, Lynch's early years were serene, though she says she was painfully shy. She grew up Catholic, and as she told The Irish Times, "close to nature and surrounded by cows and sheep," which sounds idyllic and almost from another time. She also studied speculative fiction and drama — and, of course, she loved the Harry Potter books. Lynch was also pen pals with J.K Rowling herself. Lucky!

But not everything was easy for her, as she was hospitalized by age 11 for anorexia, and spent two years in and out of clinics. Fortunately, she eventually got healthy enough to stand on her own two feet once again.

Were the rumors about how she landed the role of Luna true?

There are several rumors concerning how Lynch landed the role of Luna Lovegood, according to The Irish Times. Chief among them is that J.K. Rowling spotted a sickly, ailing Lynch at a book signing, and promised her the role if she could just manage to eat something. Some also posited that Lynch herself was the inspiration for the character, rather than the other way around.

But the reality is different: Lynch actually got the part after auditioning in London against 15,000 other hopefuls according to The Independent — which is kind of magical in its own right. So she didn't benefit from her friendship with Rowling, at least when it came to casting.

Lynch really was the right person for the role, too, which is obvious to anyone who's seen the Harry Potter films. "It wasn't acting, it was just a beautiful opportunity to play as a character I loved so much and an exercise in channelling her spirit," she mused in an interview with Schön! magazine. And while she says fame was difficult to cope with, playing Luna was definitely her destiny.

Life after Hogwarts was "a very strange, lonely, unknowable time"

All good things must come to an end, as did the Harry Potter franchise. After that, Lynch was cast out of the Potterverse and into the real world, which was a tough transition for her. "I had no strong sense of who I was or what my worth was outside of being Luna, and yet I no longer felt like Luna," she revealed in an interview with Schön! magazine. "It was a very strange, lonely, unknowable time and I felt nothing was anchoring me to the world." 

But Lynch did not stay adrift for long. Instead, she hit the ground running and went to multiple auditions, according to Interview magazine. She also took acting classes, which she credits for some serious creative and personal growth. "Working with great acting teachers who made me do deep self-introspection and showed me that I already had opinions and convictions and something to say to the world made me grow up and be more assertive in my life and work," she continued.

From her small Irish village to LA

What do you do when you've gotten your big break in a major film franchise but you're all finished shooting? Why, move to LA, of course. That's exactly what Lynch did — which meant she had to leave home, at least for a while. "Personally, I felt I had to move away from home because there was a lot of cynicism around having a job in the arts," she shared in an interview with Bust magazine. "People would think that [acting] wasn't a real viable career option, and there's a sense that if you aspire to it you must think you're something special." So off to So Cal it was.

Even though Lynch didn't find her next big break in the process, her time in LA was good for her. "I'm no longer walking into rooms looking for someone to tell me who I am," she mused in an interview with Schön! magazine. "I know who I am without loudly having to assert my presence, and that's given me the courage to manifest the opportunities I want." What a super positive takeaway.

She landed her "dream role"... but it never happened

Lynch has been quite busy since Harry Potter wrapped. She's landed roles in the BBC drama Danny and the Human Zoo, the indie crime drama Dynamite: A Cautionary Tale, and guest-starred in an episode of the Sky One television show Sinbad, among others. But none of those catapulted her into mega-stardom. 

Lynch did land a dream role at one point, one that had potential to be that sought-after big break. "I got a role in a film called Monster Butler recently that was pretty much a dream role," she revealed in an interview with Glamour. Had the film been made, she would have starred in it alongside thespian heavyweight Malcolm McDowell. 

But due to financing problems, the film never got off the ground, which was initially devastating for Lynch. "When 'Monster Butler' fell through at the last minute, I was heartbroken for a few weeks," she shared in an interview with The Independent. But shortly thereafter, she recovered, letting the film's failure be a learning experience for her.

​"I had to kind of become a character who I disagreed with in every way"

The first feature-length film that Lynch starred in after Harry Potter was quite the pivot for her after acting in dramatic movies. In 2013, she played McKenzie Pryce in the American teen comedy GBF (Gay Best Friend). Unlike Luna Lovegood, Price is a homophobic, evangelical Christian — pretty much the opposite of a lovable weirdo. 

Lynch really had to act in this role, as it was so different from who she is in real life, too. "I had to kind of become a character who I disagreed with in every way," she shared in an interview with The Irish Post. And even though she was appalled by some of the things Price says in the film, she had to honor the part. "I had to empathise with her," she added.

The film also gave Lynch the chance to show off her acting chops in other ways. "It was a chance to do an American accent," she continued. "And it was a very different genre. I'd never done comedy before."

A second chance at magic

GBF wasn't the only project that Lynch worked on in 2013, according to The Irish Post. She also starred in a touring production of Houdini in England and Ireland, written by the BAFTA award-winning actor and filmmaker Stuart Brennan. Specifically, she was cast as Bess Houdini, the wife and stage assistant for Harry Houdini.

Lynch welcomed the opportunity to get to know the wife of the legendary magician through her character. "[Harry] called her his lucky charm and I think it's so interesting to explore the minds of these people who were in the background, who were supporting these people who become our idols," she noted in an interview with The Irish Post

Lynch not only found the role exciting, but also the prospect of acting live on stage, which she had always wanted to do. "It's a lot of responsibility in that you can't change it, it's not been edited to make you look good," she continued. "It's just you. It's very pure, it's raw." Sounds pretty magical to us!

A lot of pressure in first titular role

After many auditions for many projects, Lynch finally landed the major lead part in a film! She starred in the titular role in the independent Irish film My Name Is Emily in 2015, directed by the late Simon Fitzmaurice. It was a good fit, too, as Lynch really empathized with the character. "It was such a great part. I've not had that many parts where you read it and it feels like they're words that would come out of your mouth," she revealed to Interview magazine. "It's just so natural."

There was special pressure to perform, too, as the film's director was diagnosed with ALS in 2008, and is completely paralyzed. So he wrote and directed the entire film with his eyes, using iris recognition software to communicate — an intense accomplishment. "I very much had a sense of 'I cannot mess this up, I can't blow this. I have to give it my all every day,'" she shared in an interview with Bust magazine.

She added that working with Fitzmaurice gave her confidence, as he could not respond speedily — only after the fact, in writing. So she really grew on set.

"You have to fully commit to the madness"

In 2017 and 2018, Lynch once again graced the stage. She starred in the Irish play Disco Pigs, in the role of Runt, opposite Colin Campbell in the role of Pig. The critically-acclaimed show started its run in London, then moved to the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City. And as Lynch tells it, the show was fierce. "Until I did Disco Pigs I didn't realise what an intense physical discipline theatre is," she confessed in an interview with Schön! magazine. "I was constantly battered and bruised on that play."

Even though the show was mentally and physically demanding, Lynch absolutely loved the experience, and grew from it immensely. "You just have to fully commit to the madness and let yourself feel your way through," she continued. And even though she only got fully into the right head space during the last few months of the production, she found it "exhilarating," and it changed how she approaches acting.

Her dream is to play... Britney Spears?

When it comes to her hopes for the future, Lynch has a couple of roles that she'd really like to play. The first is Lucia Joyce, who was a professional dancer and the daughter of the legendary Irish writer, James Joyce. Quite the tragic figure, she also suffered from mental illness, and died in an asylum, according to an article in The Irish Times. Understandably, Lynch finds her captivating, and connects with her deeply. "People are always making projects about her as she was so fascinating so I hope there'll be an opportunity to play her," she noted in an interview with Schön! magazine.

That's not the only person Lynch wants to play. "My other dream role, which started as a joke but quickly took hold as a burning desire, would be to play Britney Spears in a biopic!" she gushed in an interview with Glamour magazine. "She's always been an idol of mine, I think she's awesome." We are here for that!

Dancing queen

On September 12, 2018, Harry Potter fans were thrilled at the surprise announcement that Lynch would be joining the cast of the 27th season of ABC's venerated celebrity dance competition, Dancing with the Stars, partnered with pro Keo Motsepe. "I want to learn to dance!" she told E! News enthusiastically. "It's a dream job." She continued to explain that she loves a challenge. "I like being pushed. I said that to Keo, I said 'be hard on me.' When you have that kind of pressure, that's when the most growth happens."

She's also revealed that she's excited to show her determination and how "fiery" she is — especially because the characters she plays have typically had a "softer energy." That toughness combined with having faced off against Voldemort, you wouldn't think anything would phase Lynch, but she revealed that dancing live is even more terrifying than You-Know-Who. If there's one thing Lynch has proven, though, it's that — just like Luna — she never lets fear keep her from being herself. You go, Evanna!