Why Mary Poppins Returns Added Colin Firth As A Villain

Colin Firth as Mr. Wilkins

It's no secret that nostalgia has been a massively popular trend in the entertainment industry. As such, plenty of reboots and long-awaited sequels have arrived, bringing in tons of money at the box office in the process. Disney has certainly been following suit, largely through live-action adaptations of beloved animated blockbusters. Now the House of Mouse is going the sequel route with Rob Marshall's Mary Poppins Returns.

I recently had the chance to speak with Rob Marshall and the cast of Mary Poppins Returns. In my conversation with the director, I asked why he decided to add Colin Firth's villainous character Mr. Wilkins into the narrative. After all, the franchise has never had an antagonist. Marshall told me,

That was very helpful, actually, to have Colin Firth play this character. Because you need something to push along and help the storyline. We were looking for a completely new storyline, even though we were trying to retain the spirit from the first film. And that helped so much. We set this film in the Depression Era, and that's when the books were written-- in the 30's. That helped so much, to help us find out own way.

It looks like Colin Firth's new character, as well as the film's setting, truly helped to ground Mary Poppins Returns. Because although there will be plenty of flying, magical bubbles baths, and musical numbers, the story also had to be grounded in the Banks family's reality.

From the trailers for Mary Poppins Returns, you quickly learn that the beloved Banks children have fallen upon hard times in their adulthood. Michael and his children are mourning the loss of their wife/mother, while financial issues give the family and Mary Poppins a goal to overcome. Michael is in danger of losing the iconic house on Cherry Tree Lane, with the backdrop of The Great Depression making the story very real.

In Mary Poppins Returns, Colin Firth's character Mr. Wilkins is the current president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank-- the same place that Mr. Banks worked in the original film. And with hard times falling on Michael and his family, he'll have to appeal to the Bank to let him keep his home. It's still a mystery as to how Dick Van Dyke's Mr. Dawes Jr. also factors into this narrative, but it's clear that Firth is going to provide an antagonist for the sequel.

In my same chat with Rob Marshall, he spoke to the fun of having Colin Firth play against character. After all, he rarely plays villains. Marshall said,

Of course, Michael and Jane are now grown. That helped. What happened to their story, what happened to them? And then having this character, this villain. It was so great to have Colin Firth play this role because he rarely plays a villain, it's sort of new for him. But I love his humor in the character, too. It's not just twisty mustache-y villain. You don't see it really coming.

While Mary Poppins focused on Mr. Banks' sense fulfillment and relationship with his children, Mary Poppins Returns will give adult Michael a new issue. Loss manifests itself in many ways, including financial hardship. So how will Mary solve this problem?

You can check out my conversation with Rob Marshall below.

It should be interesting to see how it all plays out. Mary Poppins Returns has some very adult themes in it, in addition to the magic Emily Blunt's title character will breathe into Cherry Tree Lane. Luckily, fans won't have to wait much longer to see it for themselves.

Mary Poppins Returns will arrive in theaters on December 19th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.