Introducing an empowered young woman on screen is elementary for Millie Bobby Brown. After battling interdimensional threats in 1980s Indiana on “Stranger Things,” the British actress next plays a plucky 19th-century super sleuth who breaks the fourth wall and whips out cool martial arts moves in Netflix’s coming movie “Enola Holmes.”
“What you’re watching is a young girl trying to find herself in hectic chaos that she doesn’t really know how to handle, but that’s just kind of life in general for a teenage girl,” says Brown, 16.
Based on Nancy Springer’s book series, “Enola” (arriving on Netflix in September) stars Brown as Sherlock Holmes’ rebellious and modern teen sister. The Victorian-era adventure is equal parts rite-of-passage story and period political journey as Enola fights for “her freedom to be a woman in her own right,” says director Harry Bradbeer (“Fleabag,” “Killing Eve”). “Holmes” also features the iconic Sherlock (played by Henry Cavill), whose character arc leans more emotional than crime-solving as the detective is forced to get to know his younger sibling and “learn to care for someone for the first time.”
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Raised and taught by her eccentric beloved mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is a free spirit who’s pretty good at fisticuffs, not so great at bicycling, but wondrous when it comes to word puzzles and reading. After her mom disappears on the girl’s 16th birthday, Enola’s older brother, Mycroft (Sam Claflin), orders her to go to finishing school, an option that Sherlock quietly dislikes.
Enola isn’t a big fan, either. Finding hidden clues left by her mother, Enola disguises herself as a boy and escapes on a train, meets a young lord (Louis Partridge) also on the lam, and heads to London to find Eudoria but uncovers a nefarious conspiracy involving human rights.
The youngest Holmes is a child “molded to stand and to fight and to love – mostly fights – but she was given power,” Bradbeer says.
Brown’s older sister, Paige, originally put Springer’s books on her radar, and Brown wanted to carry over Enola’s wit from page to screen: “She was so intelligent, but she used it in more of a humorous way whereas Sherlock Holmes really didn’t.”
Inspired by past Sherlock incarnations as well as the TV show “Fleabag,” Brown’s character regularly looks at the camera and addresses the audience directly. Eudoria gave Enola her name, which is “Alone” spelled backward, and the youngster “needed some kind of contact in her loneliness,” Bradbeer says. “She needed us on this journey. It wasn’t just playful. It was necessary.”
Plus, he adds, “you get a sense of the unreliable narrator because she talks to us with more bravura than she really has. She has that headstrong arrogance of a teenager that tries to hide the fear underneath.”
The director admired Brown’s “extraordinary level of spontaneity and invention” but also bravery in throwing herself into the physical aspects of the role: “Whether you were dunking her in a bucket of water and trying to drown her or throwing fireworks at her, she was just so up for it.”
Brown loved the stunt work, including Enola’s gradual mastery of an MMA move called the corkscrew, though doing it all wearing a corset was “an everyday challenge in itself,” she says. “It’s a very tight thing around your stomach that you’re just trying to breathe and eat your lunch in.”
Bradbeer says there’s an “important love story” told between Enola and Sherlock, who becomes a bit of a father figure to his sister. Cavill brought “an extraordinary quality of stillness and power” to the role, and Brown formed a sibling bond with the “Superman” actor.
“Obviously, me being me, I annoyed Henry every day,” she says. “I was always telling him about the boys I liked in hair and makeup, and he’d be like, ‘Millie, shut up. I do not want to hear this.’”
“Enola Holmes” also marks the first producing credit for Brown, giving her “an amazing opportunity” to be a creative mind behind the scenes.
“I was really channeling my Jodie Foster,” says Brown, who also counts Angelina Jolie as a filmmaking role model.
And after looking up to Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and “anyone who was on Disney Channel” when she was a kid, Brown yearned to put a lead female character on-screen that young British girls could call their own: “I’m really doing this for my 8-year-old sister because she can now look at Enola and want to be like her.”