"No more!” her father declares as she keeps adding ingredients to the pasta. Heavy cream, half a bottle of wine, and hunks of parmesan cheese—she can’t be stopped. Cooking is actor Ellie Bamber’s ideal way of making time for herself, she shares with me from London, laughing about her father’s attempt at restraint during a recent visit home. The 25-year-old has found the art of creating new recipes therapeutic while she’s off camera, a catharsis for Bamber’s whirlwind work energy and output. Or perhaps it’s a reflection of the ingredients that make up Bamber’s persona: charming, intelligent, and always up for a twist on convention.
Bamber’s cooking pastime does not lie far from her role as Dove/Elora Danan, the kitchen maid turned heroine on Disney+’s newly adored fantasy show, Willow. The show serves as a thrilling sequel to the 1988 film of the same name, which most notably starred Val Kilmer. Bamber joins her cast in an adventure to save the world and learn a couple life lessons along the way. “There’s a running theme in Willow that Elora makes the best buttered muffins in the whole of the town,” Bamber shares. “She really likes to feel things, but in a tangible sense, like adding different flavors to something, trial and error, and I think it just feeds into her determination and her creativity within that world. She is really great at believing in herself and being practical.”
The British actor’s in-depth portrayal of characters is hard to miss. Whether this is found in The Lady from the Sea at the Donmar Warehouse, in Tom Ford’s feature film Nocturnal Animals, or on the BBC One television series, Les Misérables, Bamber is consistently captivating, charming, and inseparable from her character. She shares that her process is one of meticulousness and study. For instance, to prepare for her part in Willow, Bamber went traipsing around London into the magic shops, collecting books and talking to real magicians in order to understand the world she would enter. The results speak for themselves in the new series, which is not an easy task considering the widespread adoration for its predecessor.
Willow is not your typical fairytale, mind you. The fantasy is dark, mysterious, and strikingly non-traditional. “When I was growing up,” Bamber shares, “we saw fairy tales that often had a damsel in distress, but in our tale, Dempsey—the prince—is the damsel in distress. I think that it helps to hopefully empower young women who are watching the show. There are three women at the heart of it, and I just really hope that anyone who is watching can relate to something or see themselves in at least one of the characters.”
Willow’s magic-filled quest is packed with unlikely heroes and ah-ha moments. When questioned, Bamber determines that perhaps the most important theme within the show is that of female friendship. Kit Tanthalos, played by cast member Ruby Cruz, is the polar opposite to Bamber’s, Elora. Although strikingly different on the surface, the two are fundamentally similar. “Elora and Kit couldn’t be farther from each other,” Bamber says, “and suddenly start to realize they’re much more similar than they think, and that actually together, they can lift each other up. I think that’s a really, really beautiful message to throw into the world—that women don’t need to be at odds, we can really lift each other up and help each other.” After all, a good recipe is never truly enjoyed alone, and if 2023 provides a clean plate for future explorations, Bamber is ready to pile the plate high with thoughtful collaboration and personal flourishing.
SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO shirt, pants, shoes, and scarf, DIOR skirt, and stylist’s own belt.
Photographed by Andi Elloway
Styled by EJ Ellison
Written by Eloisa de Farias
Hair: Bobby Elliot at The Wall Group
Makeup: Fiona Stiles at A-Frame Agency
Stylist Assistant: Skee