Jamie Parker on Becoming Harry Potter
With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child officially opening this weekend, July 30, and the script being released on July 31, reviews for the play are beginning to appear. In a new spoiler-free interview with the Stage, Jamie Parker, who plays Harry, has spoken about what it was like to take on the role of such a well-known character and what rehearsals have been like.
To many UK theatergoers, Parker is already well known for his role in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. Parker speaks about how he was able to utilize this experience for Cursed Child.
That was the last time I worked on a project that sold out before we started rehearsals. Though, of course, that had nothing to do with me, that’s one less thing you have to worry about when you turn up for work in the morning. But it’s also great because theatres are supposed to be full. Theatres that are stuffed to the gunnels leave me feeling rather peaceful – that’s when things are going right. When you’re playing to 40% and trying to make the budget, it’s more difficult.
Parker reveals that during the preview period, the Cursed Child cast members have been hard at work, perfecting the play.
We’re still working during the day and performing at night. But our hours with the creative team are starting to lessen off as we get into a full performance schedule of eight shows a week. The company is feeling really good – Steven [Hoggett, the movement director] has prepped us properly to be in the right physical shape. Working with him, you’ve got to be in shape. And John [Tiffany, the director] has kept up our spirits with his relentless positivity and trust in his company.
While Parker wasn’t a huge Potter fan before he was cast, he says that
I was familiar with the books and read some of them, but I wasn’t a Potterhead.
Now, he says, he’s been able to immerse himself completely in the universe and that this has helped him to appreciate the depth of the play, something that Potter fans can appreciate.
It’s been great now to immerse myself in it – I’ve gone through all of them several times now, and I’m going to go through them again. I won’t stop making notes, and every day I am finding out exactly how detailed Jack [Thorne, the playwright] and John’s work on it has been with Jo [JK Rowling]. In any decent play there’s an unspoken script going on underneath the actual script – like Woody Allen’s subtitles, whether they’re serious or funny – and that’s absolutely the case here. The play is perfectly clear to anyone who doesn’t know anything about Harry Potter – it’s just a very good play on that level. But for those who are immersed in it, there are Easter eggs hidden in every scene. There’s a lot that goes unspoken, and that’s fertile ground for being able to talk to each other onstage.
Parker also reveals a few details about the casting process, which he said was very strict and closed.
I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and go to the office of Sonia [Friedman, co-producer of the stage show] to sit and read the script there. I was back home for the weekend off the tour, so I did. But the reason I engaged with it and went through that first door in the first place was because it was Sonia and one glance at the creative team she’d put together – Jack and John and Steven and Neil Austin on lights and Martin Lowe supervising the music. Anyone and everyone on that list are people you’d give your eye teeth to work with.
He also spoke about the weight of taking on the role of Harry and how he dealt with the pressure.
It’s not my responsibility solely. I know I’m only as good as the material I’ve got to work with. I’m not an alchemist, not when it comes to writing or production. You could argue that alchemy is part and parcel of what we do, but that responsibility is shared with the audience, and putting it on in the first place was Jack and John drawing from the wealth of Jo’s back catalogue and the layer upon layer of detail in there to create something that has its own emotional trajectory and its own legs.
Finally, Parker commented on the reaction of Daniel Radcliffe, the other Harry.
He’s been very classy and gentlemanly – he sent me his best wishes before our first preview. I’m under no illusions the role belongs to me; I’m just glad to be in on the ground floor.
You can read the full interview, where Parker also talks about his career until now, here, but be warned that the article contains pictures from the play, which are spoilers.
Are you looking forward to reading the script for Cursed Child? What do you think of Parker’s portrayal of Harry? Let us know in the comments!