When three-time Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep was approached by director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca to play Mary Poppins’s eccentric Cousin Topsy in Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, a small but memorable role, the awards season favorite excitedly said yes.
Explaining Streep’s character, Marshall says, “There’s a character in the book Mary Poppins Comes Back named Fred Turvy, a man, so we thought, well, that’s interesting. He was similar to Uncle Albert from the first film [the 1964 classic Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews as the titular nanny] because when PL Travers wrote these books, they always have some similarities. So there was a great character, a really fun character who fixes things, and they went to fix this bowl that they break. And the message is that he sees things from a different point of view because everything turns upside down on this certain day and Mary Poppins explains that sometimes it’s good to see things from a different point of view, so it’s a beautiful message, a wonderful message for kids.
“And so we thought, if it were a woman, what if we worked with someone that we adore, that I adore, and who we just worked with on Into the Woods: Meryl Streep. I wonder if she’d be interested in doing a character part like this, a small part, just one sequence in the film, so I asked her and she said, ‘What took you so long to ask?’ She said, ‘Of course,’ and that she wanted so much to be a part of bringing this kind of film to the world, so that was very exciting.”
Besides another opportunity to work with Marshall, it was an easy yes for Streep because of the timeliness of the sequel, with its message of wonder and joy and, most importantly, hope. Says Marshall, “When Disney came to us with this, it was right at a point in the world where John DeLuca and myself were so desperate to balance out the world in which we live in now. To live in a world that has hope and escape and fantasy and truth and reality and emotion and all those other things, feels so important right now. In fact, it has become more important each day in this world. And when I approached people like Meryl Streep or Colin Firth to play a role, they jumped on it quickly for the same reasons. I remember Meryl Streep saying to me immediately, she said, ‘I want to be part of bringing this message to the world now. This, to me, is a gift to the world now.’
Reuniting onscreen with Streep was another unforgettable experience for Emily Blunt, who plays the iconic and beloved nanny in the sequel — especially because they’re playing yet another set of characters that are “contentious with one another.” (They first worked together in The Devil Wears Prada, then in Into the Woods.) In Mary Poppins Returns, “Meryl plays my cousin, Cousin Topsy, who runs a small fix it and repair shop and she’s of a vaguely Eastern European descent,” says Blunt. “She’s a really crazy, very colorful, eccentric character. We have a somewhat contentious relationship, which was really fun to play, and we drive each other crazy!”
“It’s so wonderful, the soul of the movie,” says Streep. “It’s about the power of imagination.”
Mary Poppins Returns opens in Philippine cinemas nationwide on Tuesday, January 8. Join the conversation online and use the hashtags #MaryPoppinsReturns and #DisneyPH.