“Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses” Executive Producers Talk Development and Dame Helen Mirren
Aside from the usual holidays this time of year, Harry Potter fans are especially excited to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Thankfully, Warner Bros. has graciously provided plenty of different events to help us celebrate it. Aside from the highly anticipated reunion of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint for the HBO Max special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, fans can get into the spirit and rally behind their respective Hogwarts Houses in the four-part quiz show Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses, which began airing last Sunday.
In case you wanted to learn more about what went into crafting this fun event, executive producers Robin Ashbrook and Yasmin Shackleton sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the development process, including selecting the contestants, creating the questions, and building the set.
With so many rabid Potter fans all over the world, it must have been a huge undertaking to find the right contestants to represent the fandom. Both Ashbrook and Shackleton together have quite an extensive list of competition shows on their respective résumés, including the American version of the cooking competition series MasterChef, so they’ve definitely seen their fair share of applicants. However, despite all that experience, Shackleton admitted that they “got more applications than [they’ve] ever gotten for any other show.” Of course, the process required extensive vetting to find the right contestants. At the same time, Ashbrook and Shackleton were very mindful to include all sorts of people of different backgrounds and even different ages.
Being that we all retain an alarming amount of Wizarding World knowledge in our brains, we’d naturally want to find out how the questions were developed. While most of us would love to be challenged, it seems that there was a lot more to consider than simply reciting obscure facts. Shackleton elaborated on what factored into creating the questions.
The whole premise of the show is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Sorcerer’s Stone film, so I would say probably 70 percent of the questions are film-related. There are book questions, and there are a lot of them, honestly. We weren’t originally going to do that until we started seeing who was applying, the breadth of the fandom and people’s different entry points into the world.
Another huge topic of the interview was the set of the show, which surprisingly had a lot of thought put into it. For instance, Shackleton mentioned that for the steps to the stage, they replicated green tile from the Ministry of Magic set. The set itself is apparently not a re-creation of any room from the castle but based on a library in Porto, Portugal, that is said to have inspired Hogwarts. And to top it off, the set houses tons of actual props seen in the movie, including one of Harry’s broomsticks that Daniel Radcliffe rode.
And surely, there’s one last thing we’d all like to know: How exactly was Dame Helen Mirren cast as the host? Apparently, it wasn’t that difficult. Mirren was already a fan of the Wizarding World and simply listened to their pitch for the show. Instead of further elaborating on any persuasion tactics to sway the renowned actor, Ashbrook simply gushed about her hosting skills.
She’ll probably win an Emmy for this as a host just to complete her collection. We do these shows with brilliantly talented game show hosts [who], who after some time, perhaps are not as interested in the backstory of the 8,000th person that they’ve met. But with Helen Mirren, we would go into overtime of shooting because she wanted to know about people’s cats, dogs, families, husbands and wives.
As if we needed more of a reason to love Dame Helen Mirren, right?
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses will air for the next three Sundays on TBS and Cartoon Network. Be sure to check out the rest of the interview at The Hollywood Reporter.
How do you feel about the questions so far? Have you spotted any props on the set yet? Let us know in the comments.