'Les Miserables': Reigniting the eternal heartache of Eponine and Marius

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EW: Why do you think so many people love Eponine?

Samantha Barks: She’s such a relatable character. I always wanted to be Eponine.

She was always the theater nerd’s first experience with unrequited love.          

I’m on Twitter and I get a lot of tweets saying, “I’m having such an Eponine day.” Or they’ll say “I’m listening to ‘On My Own’ and it’s totally summing up my day,” and I’m like, “It’ll be okay!”

We’ve all had unrequited love, where you love someone and they don’t love you back. For some people who have very empty lives or who go through really hard times, sometimes the one thing that keeps them on their feet is a burning love or desire for somebody. And I think that is sort of the main theme of Eponine.

You played Eponine for a year in London and then participated in the 25th Anniversary show. When did your love of musicals begin?

I grew up singing the whole of Les Mis. I’d just dream of seeing it.  I grew up on a little island called the Isle of Man in the north of England. I never went to London my whole life. I never saw a West End show. I just dreamed of London. My life was like a West End show. I had a little karaoke machine that my family bought me. I set it up and I’d do these one-woman shows of Cats, Evita, and Les Misérables.

When I moved on to London, I was 16 and Les Mis was the first show I saw. I remember just being so moved by it. It was an out of body experience. It wasn’t like anything I had ever heard or seen before. It’s got this amazing underlying spiritual tone to it. It kind of moved me in ways I didn’t think anything could move me before.

To put music to such a stunning novel has created something so magical. So to be part of it on such a huge scale is mindblowing.

Frances Ruffelle originated the role of Eponine on stage in London and she has a cameo in the film as a prostitute. Had you met her before?

I was so excited to see her on screen! She’s a good friend of mine, actually.

Before I started on the West End, we did a duet of “On My Own.”  I’ve got a long running relationship with her. And then we got to sing together again with the original cast. I also sang with Lea Salonga, who was another famous Eponine who did the 10th Anniversary.

Did Frances or Lea give you any advice for playing Eponine?

So many iconic people have played the role and there are so many renditions that you can’t imitate or mimic. Although you can admire and respect all those incredible performances like those two women, you’ve got to do your own thing.

And now you’re this generation’s Eponine.

Yay! Flying the flag for the heartbroken.

Next Page: Her first film experience and working with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Anne Hathaway…

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