"She remains curious, compassionate and open-minded."
Emma Watson
Emma Watson at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 21, 2015 in New York City.
| Credit: Andrew Toth / Getty Images

Emma Watson believes that Belle is a better "role model" than Cinderella—and not just because she's playing her in the upcoming live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. In fact, the 26-year-old actress turned down the chance to play Cinderella in Disney's 2015 remake of the animated classic long before she knew of plans to bring Belle to life.

"I didn't know they were going to make Beauty and the Beast at the time I turned down Cinderella," she recently told Total Film. "But when they offered me Belle, I just felt the character resonated with me so much more than Cinderella did."

So what is it about the bookish Belle that speaks to her more than Cinderella does?

"She remains curious, compassionate and open-minded. And that's the kind of woman I would want to embody as a role model, given the choice," she told Total Film. "There's this kind of outsider quality that Belle had, and the fact she had this really empowering defiance of what was expected of her. In a strange way, she challenges the status quo of the place she lives in, and I found that really inspiring. She manages to keep her integrity and have a completely independent point of view. She's not easily swayed by other people's perspectives—not swayed by fear-mongering or scapegoating."

The Harry Potter alum also revealed that she only agreed to star in the film after confirming it would be a "collaborative" effort between her and director Bill Condon. She says they turned her version of Belle into an inventor, like her father, after she found herself wondering what the cartoon version "did all day."

Beauty and the Beast waltzes into theaters March 17.