“If I’m honest, I was her,” says Watson. “I was very keen. I was super-eager to please and be good. And I was always kind of bossy.” At age nine, Emma was so bright and winning that she was chosen from tens of thousands of girls to play Hermione. Ten years later, Watson was in 2009 the highest-paid actress in Hollywood and has found herself in a place even stranger than anything Rowling could have dreamed up: Brown University.
“It was just awful,” she recalls thinking at first, during freshman week. “I was like, I must be mad. Why am I doing this?” She nervously attended her first frat party, hoping she might get into the swing of things. “I felt like I’d walked into an American teen movie. I picked up the red cups. I was like, Wow, they really do drink from these.” Then she started meeting people: a roommate who had no interest in Harry Potter (phew!), some really friendly rower guys, and eventually one Rafael Cebrián, who’s a rock musician and actor in his native Spain and has reportedly become her boyfriend. After shopping classes, she settled on European women’s history and acting. “I think actually I’m the worst person in the class,” says Watson cheerily.
“I was scared before I came to Brown—that I wasn’t going to be allowed to have both [a career and a normal life]. People would think that I didn’t deserve to have both. [I was afraid they’d think], You’re famous. You’re given free handbags. Why should you deserve to be normal?”