Emma Watson, ELLE UK

Courtesy ELLE UK/ Kerry Hallihan

For Emma Watson, starring in Beauty and the Beast was not much different than her experience with the Harry Potter series. 

The British actress is Elle UK's March cover girl, and inside she compares Hermione Granger, the beloved character that made Watson a household name at just 11-years-old, to playing Disney princess Belle. 

"For me, Beauty was the perfect, most joyful thing to do," Emma, now 26, gushed. "There was something connected about Hermione and Belle, and it was good to be reminded that I am an actress; this is what I do. The film is pure escapism."

Emma lends her singing skills (and acting chops!) to Disney's live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, her first major role since taking a year off to focus on her activism efforts. 

Emma Watson, ELLE UK

Courtesy ELLE UK/ Kerry Hallihan

Emma Watson, ELLE UK

Courtesy ELLE UK/ Kerry Hallihan

Of the experience, she shared with the mag, "It wasn't about me necessarily proving anything… I was just thinking that I have this year to myself, so let's see what we can do to 'move the needle' and make a difference."

During her hiatus from the spotlight, Emma organized several projects with her HeForShe initiative, which she launched as a U.N. goodwill ambassador to engage men in the fight for gender equality.

Emma also touched upon the criticism that comes with the territory of being engaged in issues beyond Hollywood. "It really toughened me up," the actress explained. "There is a level of criticism that comes with being an actress and a public figure, which I expect, but once you take a stance on something like feminism, that's a completely different ball game."

After Beauty and the Beast premieres March 17, 2017, Watson revealed she'll get right back to activism, but don't expect a book to follow shortly thereafter. 

"I need to see and do a bit more first... I'm no expert, and when people push me into a corner of 'here's Emma Watson to lecture you on feminism,' it's uncomfortable because I am aware I have a long way to go. I am not sure I deserve all the respect I get yet, but I'm working on it," she said. 

Pick up the March issue of Elle UK, on sale now.

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