MuggleNet Attends Special “Harry Potter” Cast Interviews at Universal Orlando
by Keith Hawk · Published · Updated
As a continuation of A Celebration of Harry Potter, the cast of the Harry Potter films held a special media-only Q&A session within Universal Orlando Resort. In attendance for the event were Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), and James Phelps (Fred Weasley).
Transcribed by Ryan McCormick
Moderator: I'd like to introduce some special guests. First up, we have James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley in the Warner Bros. films, Oliver Phelps, who played George Weasley, Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood, Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom, and Devon Murray, who played Seamus Finnigan. I'm sure you guys have some questions to ask these guys. I'm going to ask you to raise your hand when you have a question, and I'll call you just so we're not all talking at once. But I'm going to kick things off with this question. If you guys don't mind, I just want to know, can you tell us how it felt to be part of the Harry Potter film series?
Matthew Lewis: It was all right.
Oliver Phelps: I suppose that we could have said that. There were a lot worse things we could have done. It was fantastic, and [so is] the fact that we're still associated with it because things like this can take place, like the celebration events, so fans can interact. The celebration event sometimes can get us interacting. And what a great location it is, Universal Orlando. It's been nice for us [unintelligible].
Matthew: What's to say? It's been an incredible experience that started when I was 10 or 11 years old, and I'm 25 this year. I'm still a part of it, still here doing stuff for the world of Harry Potter. It's been incredible. It's hard to put into words, really. It's been a real roller coaster.
Devon Murray: We're always going to have a piece of Harry Potter here. It'll never be forgotten about, and it'll always still be part of our lives.
Evanna Lynch: It's nice to have that. I definitely find with the acting industry, it's cutthroat, and then we still have this cushion; they're always so nice to us, and they do welcome us back like a family. You don't really find that in this industry, and that's been lovely to have, and it's not going away anytime soon.
Moderator: So we're going to turn it over to [the audience].
Audience Member: We're obviously here at a Harry Potter fan celebration. It's been a few years since the movie, but now we've got all this great theme park stuff happening, and the fans are still very excited. Why do you think Harry Potter is [as] timeless as that?
Oliver: I think it's because when the films are coming out, there are guys who watched [them] at the cinema. And now you've got the guys who are maybe too young to see it in the cinema, who have now got into it on video or DVD. People are always getting into the books, and then they go to the films, so there is always something that wraps people in.
Evanna: I think, as well, the fact that I always felt - [and] I don't think I felt this with many, because I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, and I didn't feel it with other things - that Harry Potter very much could be real. They still were normal teenagers behind it all, and they were dealing with a lot of the things that other teenagers were dealing with growing up - I was dealing with it - so it felt very real, but it was still escapism at the same time because it wasn't our world, and I think this even made that more clear, having the park here, actually going through the Muggle world to the wizarding world. And that's why everyone wants to escape to that and have somewhere that's more fantastical than our world but also that they can relate to.
Matthew: Yeah, the stories are universal. They go all across age ranges, gender, race, and anything that’s accessible for anyone all over the globe, and I think that really helps. And the story is timeless, that epic battle of good versus evil. There are characters that everyone can relate to in the story and all their journeys. The world's so vivid, [and] the universe is so vivid that you can create these 3D immersive environments as they have done here and people can just keep coming back and discovering new things.
Devon: I'm not going to top anything they just said. I just agree with them 100%.
James Phelps: [Unintelligible]
Audience Member: Are we going to be able to hear any of your voices or see any of your faces when we visit Diagon Alley this summer?
Moderator: I'll take that one.
Moderator: There is a lot more information to come out right now, you guys know that. It wouldn't be Diagon Alley without some of our favorite characters from the Harry Potter film series.
Audience Member: So much for that question.
Audience Member: Matt, you alluded that you've been doing this for 14 years, [which is] more than half of your life. It's a long time and there are people in the industry that certainly don't want to be [stigmatized] with one person that they've portrayed. [The same goes for] Luna, the twins, and everything else. Do you find yourself that you want to separate from Harry Potter at all but you still want to come back to it on occasion? Or do you want to stay with the fandom and just roll with it forever? What are your thoughts on separating yourselves?
Matthew: No, it's a good question. As an actor, I think throughout the film series, particularly towards the end myself, I definitely had one eye on the career side of it and where I was going to go post-Potter. I've been really fortunate. I’ve come out the back of it and I've been working and I've done stuff where I've been able to play characters that are so drastically different from Neville and I've been really fortunate in that respect. It's definitely that idea of trying to do something different, but at the same time, you can't just ignore the past and be begrudging of Potter, because it gave me the ability to go on and do all this stuff, and I get the chance to come to Florida and chill out and see these guys again and meet you wonderful people. When they asked me, I jumped [on] the chance and I think it can be done alongside work at the same time. I think talking about previous roles that I played is not a big deal for me.
Evanna: I agree. I think definitely, for me, it gave me a career, and I don't think I would have had the confidence to even go into acting if it hadn't been for this. So it really pushed me into this and the fact that I love it. It opens doors, not even just [for] acting. We went to NASA the other day, the space center, and this guy brought us into a room and he's like, “No one's seen this spaceship.” You just would never connect the two, but it does, it has opened so many doors, [and] so many opportunities. I think it is what you make of it. You do want to mold your career and not be seen as a child all the time. I'm really happy being identified with Luna because I always gravitate toward those misunderstood characters in stories. And talking about acting range, I love playing those characters. So for me, it's a help. I think every one of us, we've just been given a platform and it’s up to us what we want to do with it.
Devon: For me, doing Harry Potter was the best thing I've ever done in my life so far. I'll never begrudge the time that I spent on Harry Potter. It was the best thing I've ever done. And Seamus Finnigan, he was so much like me, I connected straight through. Seamus is clumsy - I’m clumsy - so I'm living Seamus’s life every day of the week. I blow up my microwaves…
Devon: Not on purpose, obviously. Working on Potter was like… I don’t think I could get -type cast [unintelligible]. To be fair, Seamus wasn't the biggest character in the world. And people remember me playing Seamus but he wasn't on screen every two seconds, so it's a character that people can’t forget about, [but maybe] they try to forget it. I think for me, it's easier to go off in different ways. After Harry Potter, I then took a break to get back home and get back to my family, back to the horses. Because being on Harry Potter for 10 or 11 years, tore me away from all my family and friends. So after Harry Potter [I went] back home, back to normality a little bit, and now it's time to get back in the saddle again, doing work.
Audience Member: I think I get reminded of a Star Trek convention when I see this here, but this seems a little different. You guys were the same age as the fans who grew up with this. I'm wondering, do you get that super-fan who knows everything you did? Did that ever happen to you? I'm wondering how that [unintelligible]?
Oliver: You see that? Yeah. We had a look around the park today, as you know, [and we rode] a few of the rides, and we said to one of the guys from Universal, “Do people often wear robes?” And then you see the guys, probably mid-20s or so, with the lightning bolt Sharpied on the head, in the robe, queuing up to go on the ride. So it does mean so much to people. It's quite interesting when they say, “Oh, do you remember when in this film when this happened…” I’m trying to remember…
Oliver: So, yeah, it does happen [crosstalk]. But I think that just shows what it means to people and how important it is to people's lives. And to be able to have represented something that is so significant to them is just...
Audience Member: Was it like that for you as a kid reading these books as well? Do you identify with that?
Oliver: A bit. When we were reading the books the films had not come out, at the same time, you've got an image in your head and everyone knows someone in their lives like those characters. I suppose that people [who] see us, especially playing [the] good guys, are a lot more open to coming and chatting with us, like their friends.
Audience Member: Matthew, you said at the very top that life is somewhat like a roller coaster, and we are here at one of the greatest amusement theme parks on this side of the pond. What is your favorite theme park experience?
Matthew: Oh, wow. Do you mean besides the wonderful world of Harry Potter?
Matthew: The thing about the theme parks over here, particularly Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, is you just don't do anything by half. Like in the UK, our theme parks are made of polystyrene, they fall apart and the illusions are shattered very easily. Whereas here it's all built to last and it feels so real. One minute you can be walking down New York, then you're in San Francisco, and then you're in Hogsmeade. It is just incredible what you do here. Everything is just bigger and better and the roller coasters are great! I love the Hulk, I like that ride.
Evanna: I love Seuss Land, it’s just so beautiful.
Evanna: I tend to wear a lot of colors, so I always end up blending in well in Seuss land. And also Hollywood, the crazy [red] roller coaster with the dip. The Rip Ride, that's what it's called.
Oliver: I think there is an experience, a memory for us when the wizarding world opened that was just insane because we were doing press here for it. And gradually the sun was coming up and you could just see the line getting longer and longer. I don’t know how many thousands of people turned up, but as an experience, I'll never forget that as long as I live. People just wanted to be there, even if they wouldn't have time to queue to get in. I think the average ride time is an hour and a half or something, but it was like 12 hours or something [that day]. [People] just wanted to be there as an experience. That was something that always stayed.
James: I'm a huge Simpsons fan, and I went to Springfield yesterday. I had a Krusty burger, a Duff beer, and a flaming Moe. That was really cool, oh, and a big donut which I feel quite shameful about now.
Matthew: It was the biggest donut that I had ever seen!
James: It was bigger than my head, it was. As an experience, that was cool. Like Matt was saying, especially Universal here, they don't do things by half. Especially when a few of us saw what they have got in store for the summer. It does look cool.
Audience Member: Getting back to the books now, you talked about reading the books ahead of the movies. Were there any moments out of the books that involved your characters, that you wish had made it into the finished film?
Oliver: I always think what didn’t occur to them and didn’t make the cut was Peeves, as it relates to Fred and George. I suppose they have to trim some stuff down to get the films to where they are. That was one guy I would have liked to have seen.
James: I remember them saying that if they were to make everything in the first book into a movie, the movie would be about seven hours long. [laughs] So, unfortunately, they had to cut things out, but Peeves was a pretty cool character.
Evanna: I was gutted that I didn't get to commentate [on the] quidditch match. I find sports boring, sorry, it puts me to sleep. So it would [of] been fun to make it. To do with the Lovegood treatment.
Matthew: I think I’ve thought of the same one for a few years. I always really wanted to shoot the stuff with Neville's parents in St Mungo's hospital. It was something that David Yates was keen on, and we kept saying, every month or so that would go by he’d say, “I'm trying to get it back in. We're trying to find time and it just got away from us, unfortunately, in scheduling and we never got around to shooting it.” To which David was very apologetic. It was a shame, I thought it was quite important for Neville's backstory. It showed [us] what his inspiration was and why he did everything that he did, and how he had Harry’s back and fought a good fight. So that was a shame, but we just had to find that journey in other ways, which we did the best we could.
Devon: For me, it was - well I got to film this part that never actually made it into the film - was when Neville comes in with the leg-locker curse. Seamus has to turn around and say he’ll fix it, and Neville gets nervous and says, “You’ll blow my kneecaps off,” or something. Seamus had to have his bald patch down at the end of it. I thought that was pretty cool, because they had Seamus, like my freckles and everything on it, It was kind of freaky looking.
James: I thought it was real.
Devon: I was always disappointed that never made it into the movie because I thought that was pretty cool. And I broke like 20 or 30 wands that day. I’d keep on banging them on the table and they weren't made the best, so they kind of snapped every second day.
Audience Member: Well, you all grew up together, is this kind of like a high school reunion - besides you two [Oliver and James] - do you keep in touch?
Oliver: We never see each other.
James: We don't see each other.
James: It is kind of. We still do keep in touch, but we have the gang back together. We’re kind of picking up where we left off, aren’t we?
Matthew: It's tough, everyone is around the world with their filming schedules or whatever, and it's hard to find time to get people together. We play cricket - don’t we - once a year. So people see each other and we stay in touch, but it's quite rare to have this kind of experience. It's kind of nice. It's been good fun the last few days.
Oliver: It’s good, at least there's a slight structure to the schedule, but you're always together so we can catch up, even on old times as well. Just chill out and have some fun while we're doing it.
Evanna: We always know there's gonna be more of these, even when they say, “This is, it’s done. How does it feel [now that] it's done?” It’s never done. I never get too emotional leaving all these people because six months down the line, there will be another theme park somewhere in the world, and we'll all be back.
Audience Member: So Matt and Evanna - Matt you mentioned the opportunities this has afforded you - and both of you have done stage in the last year and a half, and pretty major roles considering how young you are. Can you talk a little bit about those experiences and, and how you think that stage has been different for you?
Evanna: I think when I got off Potter, I felt like a bit of a fraud in terms of acting. I didn’t know what to do, because I knew then a little inside out, it was more just the child of me coming out and playing. And I didn't know how to approach a character who I was already obsessed with or who I had a connection with. So I did something small-scale because I wanted to just explore, and I found it challenging, it was. Because this is so different from low-budget, huge Harry Potter-scale projects, you have to be so much more responsible and aware of yourself. You have to look at yourself because you don't have the luxury of time to spend on things to keep going over things. And sometimes it can come out looking awful. Whereas with Harry Potter, if it looked bad we would just do it again and again and again until it looks great. I had more creative freedom, I suppose, I didn't have to go through so many filters, that kind of thing. I enjoyed it but prefer [to do] film because you could take more time on it.
Matthew: Mine was largely similar, you come out on a film Potter we’d done [it] for so many years. A lot of actors job away in the theater for years before they get anywhere near a TV film camera. So I felt like I needed to go back and go to that purest form to see if I could do it. So I did kind of a smaller play originally, like three or four years ago., and I was crap. I was so bad. I’d just never done it before, I was really in the deep end. And it took quite a while to get through that. Toward the end of the tour, I started to pick it up and I learned from the other guys and got where I was going. And by the end of it, I was really enjoying it and I was into it and so when I got a chance to go on the West End last year, I just jumped at it and it was a great show. I enjoyed that, that was a much more pleasant experience than the previous play. I got what it was all about, really loved it and those experiences and opportunities come off the back of this. Absolutely.
Audience Member: That play was amazing.
Matthew: Did you see it?
Audience Member: Twice.
Matthew: Oh, wow. Thank you very much, you should have told more people.
Audience Member: I'm assuming you've all been over [to] Hogsmeade. I just want to know, what was your favorite thing over there? And then, a question for you guys, when the new Diagon Alley opens, what are you looking forward to seeing in there? Especially Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
James: The eighteen-foot version of myself doing that should be nice. [laughs] I think one of my favorite things over there is the frozen butter beer, especially in the summer, that's probably one of my favorite things there. Like Oliver said, when the park first opened, seeing everyone walkthrough for the first time - just like me in Springfield yesterday - it is everyone [looking around in awe]. I'm sure that happens every day for the guys who work here. I think that one of the great experiences for me is just seeing everyone… because we take it for granted because we've had the other thing in the UK, so seeing their reaction is fantastic.
Oliver: [unintelligible] to see the Weasley Wizard Wheezes, there on the sound stage, I'm looking forward to that. Snack boxes and stuff like that there's some cool stuff, that's all for later.
Evanna: I love just the detail that is put into it that makes it seem real. Even the signs on the walls saying, Keep your hands in the cart!, they are done scrolls it all feels like Hogwarts. Oh and I love the mandrakes, I always have to stand and squeal at them for like ten seconds, I find it funny. Oh and the toads, the choir toads.
Devon: I think Olivander’s is pretty amazing, getting to go in there, the whole experience of picking the wands. I think that's amazing. We were able to do things in Harry Potter that people would love to be able to do. Now they have the chance to come here and go in and have their wand picked out and try a different wand, that’s pretty awesome.
Matthew: I've been playing jeopardy because I didn't hear the question. I've been trying to guess what it was.
Audience Member: Have you been to Hogsmeade, and what was your favorite part?
Matthew: That first moment when I went through the mid entrance and could see the castle off into the distance. It just looked so big and I thought it looks so far away as well. I think it's going be so amazing going through this whole town, reaching up into the castle at the end, and going into all the shops. When I was a kid reading the books, that was what I just totally imagined. And also when you go on [the] film set, it's quite a bit different from that. And so to be able to come here and experience that like I imagined Harry experienced it in the book, that was pretty cool.
Moderator: We have time for one more question.
Audience Member: You had mentioned earlier seeing the line of people building when the original was being rolled open. Harry Potter is a phenomenon, when did it impact you guys that you were part of something so much bigger? [That it was] not just a movie, but something that would live on at theme parks, have fans that are this devoted, and [with] more and more generations [of fans] coming up.
Oliver: I think at every premiere, that was the first time you see it, and you see more people arriving at them, and they got bigger and bigger. The final one was the biggest premiere ever held in London, which says something about premieres being held in London. Then you hear on the grape line how people are naming their children after characters… really, seriously. It's kind of all those things. I'm sure that when the expansion opens it'll be the same again, it'll be a surprise for people to come and see it. I think there are always going to be people getting into it and getting [unitelligible].
Moderator: Well thank you so much for joining us and have a great time!
Be sure to also check out our webcast piece and construction report of Diagon Alley.