Harry Melling Shares His Thoughts with MuggleNet on the Black Comedy “Smack Family Robinson”

In an exclusive interview, actor Harry Melling, who portrayed Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series, shares his recent ventures on the theatrical stage as he describes his new play, Smack Family Robinson.

As we described recently, the Robinsons have run a successful family business since the 1960s. They have a comfortable house and expensive cars in the drive. But things have changed; there are new products, more competition, and a bigger market. At the end of the day, though, it’s still all about cash and stock. For this is no ordinary family business – the Robinsons are drug dealers. As son Sean takes over the reins, disturbing things are happening in the previously tranquil streets of Kingston and Richmond. The younger generation isn’t like their dad. And the police are getting interested!

During the interview, we discussed his recent birthday outing, heard his thoughts on some of his recent works in the theater, in particular, working once again with Fiona Shaw – who portrayed his mother, Petunia Dursley, in the Harry Potter series – and discussed his next project after he finishes with Smack Family Robinson.

Here are some images from rehearsals of the play: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

The play will have a limited run from March 28 through April 20 at the Rose Theatre Kingston. To order tickets for the show, go online at www.rosetheatrekingston.org or call 08444 821 556. Admission prices are £8–30.

Full Transcript with Harry Melling, Friday, March 22, 2013

Transcribed by Marissa Osman

Harry Melling: Hello, Eric!

Eric Scull: Hey, Harry! How are you?

Harry: Very well, how are you doing?

Eric: Doing well. You had a birthday recently, didn't you?

Harry: I did! Currently, everywhere, it says it's on the 13th, but that's not true. It's actually on the 17th.

Eric: You know what? I'm looking at our MuggleNet calendar right now and I think it says in the 13th, so we'll have to change that.

Harry: The 13th, yeah! You'll have to change that quickly. [laughs]

Eric: I promise we'll get on it right now.

[Both laugh]

Eric: How did you spend it?

Harry: It was a quiet one, really, because I'm just rehearsing a play. So I just had family around with the girlfriend. It [was] just a quiet little affair, really. [We] went for a meal and that was it; nothing loud, just a very quiet affair, which is good.

Eric: Well, there you go. That's good sometimes. So the play you mentioned, Smack Family Robinson, I gained from the title [that] it's about a family and also about smack. [laughs]

Harry: Yes! It's a family of smack dealers. It's a black comedy and it's based on this family called the Comptons who lived in Brighton and in 2003 they got done for dealing heroin. The writer, Richard Bean, who also wrote One Man, Two Guvnors - which I think has just been on Broadway - is very funny. [He's] a very great, very clever and good writer. He wanted to take this story and write about this family and try and explore what went on behind the scenes. And then this play happened, which has, so far, been a real hoot to do. It's been great.

Eric: Now, you play Sean. He's the oldest son?

Harry: He's actually the middle one. Robert is the oldest one. Then we've got a sister called Cora. So he's the middle one. But Robert is quite a bit older. I think Robert is 35, and Sean is about 21 - a couple [of] years younger than me - and then Cora is 18 because the play happens over her [birthday]. I think the second scene begins with her birthday.

Eric: You said it's a black comedy?

Harry: It is, yes.

Eric: Do you like this form? Do you like black comedy, or would you prefer a drama, or?

Harry: Yeah, I do. It's weird, really, I think I'm really into any kind of genre, so to speak, as long as it's good. And when I first read this I thought it was hilarious. I just thought it was absolutely brilliant in its wacky observations, but also in it fundamentally being about a family, and about how families operate but just put on this smack world. It brings out the extremities of that family situation, so to speak. I just thought it was a fascinating play and the part is a real gift because he's a very unique character who spends most of his time high and therefore expresses himself in a very unique and wonderful way. There's a lot of fun to be had with that. But as for genre, I've been lucky so far. All the theater stuff I've done [has] been very varied which has been great for me. I've done some classical stuff, and I did some [unintelligible] - which is my first play that was written in the 60s - last year, so it's been really varied. It's always good to be doing these things.

Eric: I wanted to ask about Mother Courage and her Children, The School for Scandal, [and] I Am a Camera, to see how this show is different. Obviously, it seems to be quite different. [laughs]

Harry: Well, this is the first modern play I've done so... it's modern. It happens now, which is new. Whereas Mother Courage was written, I don't even know, the 1930s probably? Once you finish a show it leaves your memory completely. [laughs] But that was great because that was with Fiona Shaw, and that was a lovely continuity to our working relationship from when I was ten. It was lovely to take it on to the next stage, so to speak. That was wonderful. And again, The School for Scandal was restoration, which was something new, and Women Beware Women was a Jacobean, which was new. So [they were] all really exciting projects. And, of course, I Am a Camera, going back into Berlin, but in the 30s. [It] was really good fun to play Christopher Isherwood who's such a fascinating figure. [It was] a real joy to play someone that fascinating, and have so much archived material available to look into to try and find those connections between what you are and how you operate in your qualities against someone who actually lived, and that was fascinating.

Eric: It seems like you're doing a lot of great stuff with theater. Would you go back to film? Have you gone back to film? What do you prefer: the experience of being on a film set, or on stage in front of a live audience?

Harry: It's very different. I'd love to go back to film. I'd absolutely love [it]. And I think especially now that I had properly done more stage stuff. It is really good to try and get back into film or TV. I have done some. I haven't done a film since Potter, but I have done some TV and they're completely different. They're just completely different worlds, really. And the way you approach it is just so different. I'd love to try and get that going as well, really. That would be fun.

Eric: So [back to] Smack Family Robinson. I just read up on the synopsis and I was wondering if there were any elements... Have you read The Casual Vacancy?

Harry: No, I haven't!

Eric: Because that deals with drugs in a certain thematic way.

Harry: Yes. And it's in a small village, isn't it? It's in a small town. That's a good point. I should maybe read that because that sounds interesting. But, again, this play is set in Kingston which the South is part of London, really, so it is very suburban. I guess that's where the humor comes from. The fact that it is quite a suburban, comfortable, rich environment that they happen in, and then you have these [unintelligible] there. But that's such a really good reference. I should read it. Quickly.

[Both laugh]

Harry: But I haven't read it, unfortunately. I haven't had time to read it, but I would love to.

Eric: That's fine! How's it working with Keith Allen, Denise Welch, all the actors in Smack Family Robinson?

Harry: Brilliant! It's a very fun rehearsal process. It's been very careful in the sense that we didn't get up on our feet for the first two weeks, and the third week we started standing up and blocking it, so to speak. It's been a very careful and slow and specific process really trying to hone how the different relationships work. So that's been great, and Keith and Denise are just fantastic, open, wonderful people to have in the room, as [are] Matt and Kate. It's a really fun room. It's just really fun.

Eric: The show will last from 28th March to 20th of April. Do you have anything in the works for after that?

Harry: I do! I've got another theater job.

Eric: Oh, really? [laughs]

Harry: Yeah, but I'm not sure... The play has been announced, but I haven't been announced, so I'm not sure I can say what it is yet...

Eric: Oh! That's fun!

Harry: ...but it should be out in the press soon. But that's going to be happening quite shortly after Smack Family Robinson. So that should be fun.

Eric: This is a zany question, I do apologize in advance. Some of the other Potter stars have since been in music videos, Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Matt Lewis... Would you consider being in a music video? Have you ever thought about it?

Harry: If I thought the band was good, I'd love to be! I didn't know that Matt was in one. I knew that the others had done one, but what video was Matt in?

Eric: I actually would have to look it up myself. I don't know. They seem to be quite an interesting medium to work with.

Harry: Yeah, I'd love to be in a music video.

Eric: What music are you listening to? What do you like?

Harry: I might even say their name wrong, which is awful, but I saw a band last night called Poliça. I think that's how you say it: [pronounces poll-e-sa]. The "C" has a little thing at the bottom like a little five. I think it's a Polish word, and they're a really, really cool band. I saw them last night and they've got two drummers, so the drumming and the beats are just really, really, really loud, almost like a marching band. They're the first band that springs to mind.

Eric: That's very cool. That's really it for the questions we had, to be honest, but I really appreciate the time you've taken.

Harry: No, not at all, man.

Eric: It's good to hear about you, and it's good to see that you've got work lined up. It's really cool, and I wish I could see Smack Family Robinson, but I don't think I'll be able to get there in time.

[Both laugh]

Harry: No, it's quite a short one, isn't it? It's only three weeks. It should be good, though.

Eric: It was great speaking with you.

Harry: Yeah, [it was] lovely to speak to you too!

Eric: I hope you have a good day and good luck with the show, or should I say break a leg?

Harry: You too, man. Yeah, "break a leg," that's the one. Brilliant. Thank you very much.


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Eric S.

Eric Scull joined MuggleNet in November of 2002. Since that time, he’s presided over a number of sections, including name origins and Dear Hogwarts, but none so long as the recently revived Crazy Caption Contest. Eric is a Hufflepuff who lives in Chicago and loves the outdoors.