Oz Comic-Con Sydney 2015

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to represent MuggleNet at Oz Comic-Con Sydney. It was packed with people – fans of anime, comics, sci-fi, horror, gaming, and fantasy – all enjoying themselves in the Southern Hemisphere’s pop culture mecca. Oz Comic-Con was located on Glebe Island, just a ferry ride away from Darling Harbour – I have to say, there’s nothing quite like seeing Darth Vader and Poison Ivy with the Harbour Bridge as a backdrop.

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Apart from the incredible cosplayers, and artists, some fantastic guests like Dean Rankine (an illustrator for The Simpsons), Dante Basco (Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender), and Clive Standen (Rollo in The Vikings) made an appearance, as well as Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Robbie Jarvis (teenage James Potter).

There were some amazing Harry Potter cosplayers:

Some pretty interesting insights were garnered from Evanna and Robbie’s Q&A session. The most interesting one was when Evanna revealed that

J.K. Rowling has a really well-fleshed-out character for Rolf [Scamander].

Evanna said J.K. Rowling was going to use Rolf to tell “The Tale of the Three Brothers” instead of Xenophilius.

A few other things we found out:

1. According to Evanna, J.K. Rowling has an owlery in her house because people send her so many!

2. Evanna also stated that she didn’t like Luna being used as comic relief.

She has a very strong sense of self due to her ostracism. But I felt like the films pushed the comedy a little too much. In 7 in Malfoy Manor you get more of that sense of how she really is.

3. We found out that Robbie wrote FAN FICTION!!

I’m a massive James apologist – I wrote fan fiction! I think how other people perceive him is based on seeing him in Order at a particularly weak moment. But he’s a goodie, he’s not a baddie; after all, Dumbledore doesn’t trust baddies. Except for Snape.

4. We realized why they were cast. These were their answers to “What spell would you be and why?”

Robbie: [The Levitation Charm] because I’ve always wanted to fly. Or if it [were] just a magical ability, I would want to be an Animagus.

Evanna: [The Patronus Charm] – it’s the happy spell.

If that isn’t typecasting, I don’t know what is.

5. We found out about on-set pranks:

Evanna: I was used in the jokes a lot.

Like with the wizard food – some things tasted foul. Matt [Lewis] and Alfie [Enoch] wouldn’t trust each other, but they trusted me because of my innocent demeanor. So I would have to orchestrate the joke.

Robbie: Actually, Evanna chooses all the bad every flavor beans and feeds them to me!

6. And that Evanna isn’t a Neville/Luna shipper:

Evanna: I ship Luna and Dumbledore – both are so soulful, so serene – there’s no one good enough for Luna in the books except Dumbledore.

I’m not into the Neville/Luna ship – he wants to settle down, whereas she wants to explore the world/set up a cult…

Robbie: Well.. his idea of a great magical creature is a frog…

Evanna: I think they just had a wartime fling…

7. We found out about their other fandoms:

Robbie: We both love Avatar: The Last Airbender – I’m in air, Evy’s in fire. Also Game of Thrones, I may have auditioned, and gotten really close… put it this way, I was the only person cheering during the Red Wedding.

Evanna: You should watch the series.

Robbie: No, I actually can’t – the whole Robb Stark thing’s too traumatic. I keep trying to find characters I can still be. There was the Young Griff that everyone was really excited about – but it was just a red herring.

8. And Evanna’s relationship with J.K. Rowling:

Evanna: I see other actors as normal now, but I still don’t see J.K. Rowling as human… I really appreciate that she trusts me with her character. We write letters to each other, but once I got an email from her – it was too real… I didn’t want to get that comfortable… I think it’s important for people to have idols, who give them inspiration…

9. We found out about the scene Evanna wished made it to the movies:

Evanna: I wish that office scene, where Harry gets really angry, and he destroys all of Dumbledore’s stuff – it was such a release/so cathartic. I loved the house-elves, anything that took you away from the main story, that was just about the world.

10. In the end we discovered what being in the Harry Potter films taught them:

Evanna: That you can do anything with passion, and I’ve learned not to deify things – because when you do it’s really hard to be natural. Everyone has something unique to contribute.

Robbie: With James, I guess I learned that we all have bad days – don’t let them define you. Just move forward with the best intentions.

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See you again next year!

[toggle title=”For all my Evanna and Robbie Q&A notes” state=”close” ]

Disclaimer: The following are taken from my notes – they are not verbatim, although I have tried to be as accurate as possible.

If you could be in a Harry Potter spin-off, what would it be?

E: I would want to be in Fantastic Beasts because Luna loves creatures.

R: I would love a Marauders spin off, or failing that, a Breaking Bad mash-up with Walter White as Snape, and Harry would be Jesse, and they’d make meth in the Potions dungeon.

What was the most challenging scene?

E: The Department of Mysteries scene, what would Luna do in a life or death situation? She doesn’t think death is the worst thing, and is very well adjusted to it. David Yates helped by saying, perhaps she isn’t afraid for herself, but for her friends. Also, it was tough because it was all green screen.

Are there any traits of yours J.K. Rowling put into Luna?

E: I used to send all these drawings and owls, so I think she was influenced by how I like arts and crafts. J.K. Rowling has an owlery in her house because she has been given so many.

E: I always saw Luna as having an Irish accent.

Was acting always your career choice?

R: The first thing I wanted to be was an aeroplane, and Evanna asked “did you want to be a plane with a face?” She’s the only person who has ever asked me that. Then I wanted to be James Bond, Superman, Fireman Sam, and then I realised they’re all characters played by actors, so I’ll be one of them then.

E: I wanted to be a cat, being an actor was a back-up. I like to get lost in stories. I’d like to write more. I think as an artist, I like to skip between mediums, and keep my options broad.

R: I couldn’t do anything else.

E: It’s basically professional cosplay.

Other Harry Potter characters you associated with?

R: I wanted to be Cedric Diggory. I chose my agent because they had actors in Harry Potter.

E: As the movies wore on, I kept asking ‘who’s left??’ then when Luna came in, I was like zoom. I don’t want her messed up. But if not Luna, I played Dobby in school play.

Anything you didn’t like about your character?

E: I didn’t like Luna being used as comic relief. She has a very strong sense of self due to her ostracism. But I felt like the films pushed the comedy a little too much. In 7, in Malfoy Manor you get more of that sense of how she really is.

R: I’m a massive James apologist – I wrote fan fiction. I think how other people perceive him is based on seeing him in Order at a particularly weak moment. But he’s a goodie, he’s not a baddie, after all Dumbledore doesn’t trust baddies. Except for Snape.

What spell would you be and why?

R: Wingardium Leviosa because I’ve always wanted to fly. Or if it was just a magical ability, I would want to be an animaguse, and I’d turn into a massive Bengal tiger.

E: Expecto Patronum – it’s the happy spell.

On-set pranks

E: I was used in the jokes a lot. Like with the wizard food – some things tasted foul. Matt and Alfie wouldn’t trust each other, but they trusted me because of my innocent demenour. So I would have to orchestrate the joke.

R: Actually, Evanna chooses all the bad every flavour beans and feeds them to me!

How did it feel going from being a fan, to actually being in the movies?

R: Scared.

E: I still pinch myself. I have to turn down the fangirlness. I just wanted them to stay in their characters all the time. I constantly corrected them on Order of the Phoenix, they think it’s endearing.. I think…

R: Well, it’s like how do you behave around your heroes? One day, I was wearing a T-shirt with Kate Moss on it, and it had ‘Enjoy Kate’ on it – like one of the Coca-Cola ads. I thought it was hilarious. I met Emma Thompson that day, she took in my shirt and went ‘That’s a shame, she’s a really lovely person.” I was like. I’ve just met someone who knows the person on my T-shirt..

E: I had T-shirts with photos of their faces on them, I used to send stuff to Dan. I met him and I was like “I know your dog’s names” – you can’t have a conversation with people like that. So yeah, don’t research actors you work with.

How do you tell the difference between the Phelps twins?

E: Oliver’s voice is deeper and he has a more angular face. James is more friendly/genuine.

If Quidditch were real, what position would you play?

R: What do you mean if??!?!?

E: I’d be the lady handing out candy. I’m afraid of heights.

R: Yeah, we climbed the Harbour Bridge yesterday, except Evanna didn’t really climb it… crawling was more what you did. But yeah, I’d be a Chaser – far more interesting than Seeker – they just fly around glory-hunting.

E: Actually, we played Quidditch in Melbourne. I was meant to be helping one team, and I had this can of Silly Spray… except I sprayed someone who was… on.. my… team.

What is your favourite creature in Harry Potter?

R: A phoenix. Because it’s really cool, and can bring people back from the dead.

E: I’d choose a Kneazle. Also you can’t bring people back from the dead – phoenixes have healing powers. But yeah, I like Kneazles… I look at my own cat, and I think he could be a Kneazle.

R: What about Pygmy Puffs?

E: They don’t really do much…

R: Evy wanted one, in Japan. It was massive. I was carrying it around Tokyo, into these quiet contemplative temples…

What are your favourite ships?

R: James and Lily.

E: Luna and Dumbledore – both are so soulful, so serene – there’s no one good enough for Luna in the books except Dumbledore.

R: McGonagall and Hagrid

E: McGonagall’s personal hygiene is too good.

E: I’m not into the Neville/Luna ship – he wants to settle down, whereas she wants to explore the world/set up a cult…

R: Well.. his idea of a great magical creature is a frog…

E: I think they just had a wartime fling…

What are Nargles?

E: Nargles are glistening glittery bugs that everyone is allergic to – you hate them, but can’t get them. They’re not cute. They are annoying.

What house are you in?

R: Gryffindor on Pottermore.

E: I’m a Gryffindor, my mother’s a Hufflepuff, my older sister’s a Gryffindor, and my other sister’s a Slytherin. When we were small, my prize insult would always be “you are such a Slytherin,” but she owns it now.

What would your Patronus be?

R: A Bengal Tiger.

E: My pet cat, because it makes me so happy. I’m not cool enough to have a cat as a Patronus though. Maybe like a hedgehog in a cat’s body.

Did you ever steal anything from the set?

E: I wasn’t brave enough, I thought it they found out they’d sack me. I got some phoenix feathers and made a necklace, but I think I’ve lost it. Dan got a sword. But yeah, I’ve got all the call sheets, and the sign from my room with Luna and my name on it.

R: Only three people wore the glasses; me, Dan, and older James Potter. So I kept trying to steal them.

Favourite Harry Potter book?

E: 5 – that’s where all the energy, where you get onto more important stuff starts – like the Order of the Phoenix and the DA. In 6, the morale goes down, but in Phoenix the DA’s fighting back, and it’s Luna’s first book.

R: Order too – you get a sense of the wider wizarding world – that it goes generations back, you can take the characters other places in your head.

Other fandoms?

R: We both love Avatar: The Last Airbender – I’m in air, Evy’s in fire.

E: Artemis Fowl – which is an Irish series about a young boy who’s a genius, who finds all these underground fairies.

R: Game of Thrones, I may have auditioned, and gotten really close… put it this way, I was the only person cheering during the Red Wedding.

E: You should watch the series.

R: No, I actually can’t – the whole Robb Stark thing’s too traumatic. I keep trying to find characters I can still be. There was the young Gryff that everyone was really excited about – but it was just a red herring.

If you could portray another Harry Potter character, who would it be?

E: Dobby, or like a house elf…

R: McGonagall – because she’s Scottish and mean.

Who’s your favourite Marauder?

E: Sirius.

R: James. obviously. I don’t understand Wormtail apologists – I mean that’s like being a holocaust denier.

If you could set up your own wizarding school, what would it be like?

E: I think I would need a house with a wild streak.

R: Yeah, I’d want my house to be encouraging the mischievous side – like a Machiavellian mindset.

E: Or maybe like, a “I don’t know who I am” house… or like a free love house… with a multicolor unicorn as the mascot.

Day 2:

What was it like meeting the rest of the cast?

E: It was like reliving the books… and I wanted everyone to be in character the whole time… which… they… didn’t always… want to do… But they were my heroes growing up, so it took a while to feel comfortable.

R: It was nerve-wracking. When I met Robbie Coltrane, I put out my hand and I was like “Hi Robbie, I’m… Robbie…?” and then he almost wrenched my shoulder off when he shook my hand.

What was it like working with StarKid?

E: It was really interesting seeing their creative process. Like, they start with a joke and it goes further and further… and they don’t really edit… so it ends up being eight hours long… and then there are 5,000 StarKid fans trying to get to the bathroom.

If you could play any other Harry Potter character, who would you play? [Evanna, in the intervening time, clearly thought about this a lot.]

E: I’ve decided at the moment I would want to be Winky, she’s sort of a tragic Luna… besides she’s an alcoholic, and I’m Irish… so…

What magical object would you have if you could?

R: I’ve always wanted a broomstick. When I was a kid, I put dustbin bags at the bottom of my stairs at home, and then I’d jump off the top and try to fly… one time I landed on a coathanger…

E: A Portkey because I’m perenially late, I may have rolled out of bed forty minutes ago… oh, and a wand! Why haven’t we been saying wand?

What’s your relationship like with J.K. Rowling?

E: I see other actors as normal now, but I still don’t see J.K. Rowling as human… I really appreciate that she trusts me with her character. We write letters to each other, but once I got an email from her – it was too real… I didn’t want to get that comfortable… I think it’s important for people to have idols, who give them inspiration…

What was the audition process like?

E: I felt prepared for it, if they liked my interpretation, that’s it. If they don’t, they’re wrong. It still feels too big.

R: With the Marauders’ casting, they went through agencies – one of the drama games we did at the beginning was this head-tapping game, where you had to tap 10 people on the head – which is actually harder than it sounds. Anyway, David Yates, David Heyman, and two others were sitting at these desks, and I just thought – great – sitting ducks. So I ran up to them, tapped them on the head, and sat down. I finished like 20 minutes earlier than everyone else. My friend sat down next to me, and he was like “You. Idiot.” But actually, that was the moment because David Yates said he felt that’s something James would have done.

Were there any scenes that were left out of the books that you wished were in the movies?

E: I wish that office scene, where Harry gets really angry, and he destroys all of Dumbledore’s stuff – it was such a release/so cathartic. I loved the house elves, anything that took you away from the main story, that was just about the world.

R: I wish we’d gotten more of a sense of the Marauders’ friendship in the movies…

How does it feel to be part of J.K. Rowling’s Big 7?

E: I don’t know! Um, it’s humbling, I feel a responsibility to live up to that. I consider it a real privilege.

If you could play another character in the Potterverse, who would it be?

E: I was stalking MuggleNet for Fantastic Beasts casting information – I wanted to be a creature… J.K. Rowling said the Crumple-Horned Snorkack doesn’t exist. I disagree.

Do you know anything about Rolf Scamander?

E: Originally he was meant to tell Xenophilius’s story – “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” She kept telling me he was in, he was out, he was in, he was out again… But yeah, she has a really well fleshed out character for Rolf.

What were your favourite books growing up?

E: Stargirl – it had a character like Luna in it, Artemis Fowl, and the Series of Unfortunate Events.

R: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Terry Pratchett… now Game of Thrones

What’s the biggest challenge about being an actor?

E: There’s so much business involved, I guess, to keep the passion alive. Keep reading, so you keep your love of books, characters and everying. And don’t wait for people to tell you you can act. I think a lot of people do that. You can. Make sure you’re surrounded by people who support you. Acting is all about what you have that no one else has.

What’s the hardest thing about filming?

E: Nerves, trying not to watch yourself. You’re always trying to get back to that childlike mindset. Like the adult actors on Harry Potter were always trying to catch each other off guard. It’s important to be as relaxed as you can.

R: The difference between screen and stage is with screen you have to learn not to ‘perform’. One of the only pieces of advice I got on Potter was from Fiona Weir, the casting director, and she said ‘the camera’s an X-ray for your feelings’ like whatever you feel – the camera will pick up on.

Was there any improvisation you had to do in you audition/screen test?

E: For the screen test, actually, they put me in Dumbledore’s office – and said ‘be Luna.’ So I sort of came up with this skipping game – and got completely lost in it for like ten minutes. But I was positive I’d stuffed it up – that night I just cried, because I thought that was it.

R: We had an improv where it was like ‘What’s something you’d do at school?’ and I ended up miming rolling a blunt… I think they were just like… okay, that’s nice boys, moving on.

E: Yeah in one of the earlier parts of the audition process they told me not the shave my eyebrows… and I was like ‘I don’t’ and she looked at me like she didn’t believe me – so now I’m always looking at my eyebrows.

R: So she gave you a complex for life!

E: Well, I took it as, if they were looking that closely… then I must be close…

What’s your favourite part of the world?

E: I like the fashion in Japan – it’s like Luna fashion – it’s all crazy and happy, and it’s just a completely different culture.

R: Actually in the Harry Potter theme park they say ‘Hagrid’ in Japanese – it sounds completely weird.

What’s your favourite Harry Potter movie?

E: 8 – it brought everyone back together, those day on set were really fun – we were giddy in a sense. The sixth was fun to film – I was more relaxed and fitted in a bit more.

R: My favourite’s Azkaban because it changes once you’re in it – like you can see the strings behind the puppet…

Favourite wizarding shop?

E: Honeydukes.

R: Ollivander’s because he’s the coolest dude.

What did being in the Harry Potter films teach you?

E: You can do anything with passion, and I’ve learned not to deify things – because when you do it’s really hard to be natural. Everyone has something unique to contribute.

R: With James, I guess I learned that we all have bad days – don’t let them define you. Just move forward with the best intentions.

What else would you be if not an actor?

E: I wanted to be a teacher for a while…

How do you feel about Snape?

E: Snape is lovely…

R: Look, if you had anyone else’s internal monologue throughout the book, you’d feel for them too.

E: He knew what he wanted, but he never got over his own insecurities.

Is there anything you did to get ready to go on set.

R: Bullied the boy who played young Snape.

E: Well, the clothes were so different, and I was always the odd one out, because Luna was so colorful – it showed her love of life, and celebrated who she was – her clothes, voice, stance, I just relaxed and thought I’m fine as I am.

R: The casting process sought out actors that really ‘got’ the characters…

E: The casting was so good, and there was so much attention to detail. R: It was comforting because you knew that people who know way more than you do put you here for a reason.

What was the first time in the studio like?

E: Sensory overload.

R: They let you wander around, I was there on the day Dan and Imelda were shooting the Umbridge scene in her office…

Who was the cast member who was closest to you?

E: Katie Leung – I guess because our casting processes were similar, it was nice having someone who understood where you came from…

R: Dan – we were filming at Blenham Palace, and it was summer and there were like 200 girls in bikinis watching us, because they always figure out where the filming’s happening, and Dan came over and said to me “some of them are quite. nice” – and I was just like, “take two, or three!” But yeah, with Dan he gets recognised a lot, and he said once “why is it always the loudest, fattest kid that spots me first??”

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Photography by Karina Zic