Rita Ora on going dark for “Descendants: The Rise of Red”: 'I just want to keep playing villains'

"I think people are going to really love the glamour and the darkness of this role," Ora tells Entertainment Weekly.

Rita Ora's gotten a taste of how good it feels to play bad, and now she never wants to go back.

The British pop star had no idea how much she would love playing the villain when she took on the role of the tyrannical Queen of Hearts in Descendants: The Rise of Red. But after months of research, prep work, and exhaustive costume fittings, she found herself enjoying going dark — so much so that she only wants to play baddies from now on.

"The villain is a very good role — I'm actually really enjoying playing it," Ora tells Entertainment Weekly. "I love the spiciness of it and the fashion, and being able to immerse myself into something else is just such an amazing challenge. I always try to challenge myself in my career, and with film, I definitely want to pick roles that feel like it's something that people may not see me in usually, and playing a villain wasn't in the cards, but now it is. And now I just want to keep playing villains. I love it."

<p>Disney/Quantrell Colbert</p> Rita Ora in 'Descendants: The Rise of Red'

Disney/Quantrell Colbert

Rita Ora in 'Descendants: The Rise of Red'

Related: Brandy and Paolo Montalban talk reuniting for Descendants: 'This is the '90s all over again'

The fourth installment of the Descendants franchise (premiering Friday) follows the next generation of Villain Kids, a.k.a. the children of iconic Disney characters. Kylie Cantrall plays Red, the rebellious daughter of the ruthless Queen of Hearts, and Malia Baker plays Chloe, the perfectionist daughter of Cinderella and the now-King Charming (played by Brandy and Paolo Montalban, reprising their roles from Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella). Unlikely allies Red and Chloe are forced to work together when the Queen of Hearts incites a coup against Auradon, leading the duo to travel back in time to undo the traumatic event that set Red’s mother down her villainous path.

The "Praising You" singer reveals that she was "linked to do something else with Disney that was also a villain-esque role," but that project was "put on hold," and it ultimately led to her casting as the Queen of Hearts in this movie musical instead. "It just made complete sense," she says.

But it took a lot of work on her end to find the confidence to play her first major movie role. "I've learned now that I can do this," Ora says. "What I've really noticed is to build a character, you have to do the homework. My husband [Taika Waititi] told me that, but you never really believe it until you do it yourself. And doing the research and trying to find the sense of inspiration, all the greats do that. It was a great experiment and challenge for me."

<p>Disney/Quantrell Colbert</p> Rita Ora and Brandy in 'Descendants: The Rise of Red'

Disney/Quantrell Colbert

Rita Ora and Brandy in 'Descendants: The Rise of Red'

Related: See the first look at the next generation of Villain Kids in Descendants: The Rise of Red

Ora put herself through a "villain training camp," looking at Helena Bonham-Carter's Queen of Hearts from 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and other versions of the character for inspiration. "I wanted to find my own twist on it, and having an original song and my costume was all part of the character build," Ora says.

Part of crafting the character involved working with director Jennifer Phang to find out just how dark she could make her character. "I asked, 'How far can I go?'" Ora remembers. "I ended up landing on this really subtle, cold movement of character, where she doesn't do too much with her body or her face, but her silence speaks volumes. My favorite villains are those like Charlize Theron's and Angelina Jolie's — they have this royal approach that feels very untouchable and very glamorous, but ice cold, and I loved that."

Creating the costume was a whole other project. Ora reveals that her outfit alone took "months of planning" on a global scale due to her tour schedule. "They would fly out to where I was, and we would do these fittings," she says. "It was like layers on layers on layers. It looks big on camera, but it was huge in person. The corsets were small, and the crown was as heavy as, I don't know, like a car. And it was on my head all day."

Ora remembers wondering how she was going to handle wearing such a heavy headpiece during long days of filming. "I was just like, 'How am I going to get through this?'" she says. "But then you discover this adrenaline, and you get so immersed in the character that you forget about all of that. And when you cut, you kind of just collapse for a second, and then you have to get back up and get on with it."

But when her first day on set finally arrived, Ora remembers feeling daunted by the task ahead. "Oh my goodness, I was so nervous," she admits. "Coming from a music background, I love film, and I've done [smaller roles] in film before, but this was the first time I had a real, genuine, huge role in something that has so much expectation because it's a huge character, it's a huge franchise. Every actor that I've spoken to says the same thing: The first day is the worst day. Everyone has the nervous jitters. And then all the actors get together, and then it's three weeks in; it's just getting on with it, and it feels so, so natural with each other."

<p>Disney/Edward Herrera</p> Rita Ora in 'Descendants: The Rise of Red'

Disney/Edward Herrera

Rita Ora in 'Descendants: The Rise of Red'

Related: Watch Brandy and Paolo Montalban reunite for new Descendants movie The Rise of Red

The biggest challenge for Ora was developing that mother-daughter relationship while also playing an evil villain. "Having a daughter, that was really an eye-opener for me, figuring out that motherly instinct," Ora says. "But it was pretty fun because there wasn't one really; she was very cold-hearted to her daughter. Tough love — I guess that's the mother instinct, to be fair. But she was hurt and felt like she had to protect herself."

The exact details of what hurt the Queen of Hearts remains a mystery, but Ora promises answers are forthcoming. "It's all about that understanding of the mother and daughter relationship; it's like the language you don't really hear," she says. "And the songs also explain a lot too, which I love. There's a lot of information in the music."

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Despite their cold relationship, Ora loved working with Cantrell in their mother-daughter scenes. "She was great. She's so wise for her age," she says. "We discovered this relationship that we thought would be cool, which was not really about physical contact, but it was more about the psychology behind it. So, with my being the villain and feeling super cold and distant, we didn't want to hug a lot or touch each other. But there's this pure strength that she has for her daughter Red of trying to protect her, but actually, she might be ruining everything for her. That's why they go back in time without giving too much away. You start discovering the origins of Auradon Prep and everything that comes with Descendants, which I love."

Ora is most excited for fans to see how dark the role gets. "Just playing this cold character, I'm so not that person, with my music and everything like that," she says. "I haven't even really tapped into that in my music videos. So I think people are going to really love the glamour and the darkness of this role."

As for whether that darkness could bleed into her music moving forward, Ora is all for it. "Yeah, I mean, a more darker, cynical Rita Ora?" she says. "Sure, why not? Let's do it."

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.