There were a lot of AMAZING panels at SVCC 2k18, but one that I was honored to sit in on was the spotlight on Matthew Lewis. He has always been one of my favorite Harry Potter characters, so getting to meet him and see him in person was…well for me it was a dream come true. But before I dive into the questions and responses asked and given by Matthew, I have to point out how much I loved the simplicity of the stage. It was very one-on-one, and gave us a more comfortable environment to hear him – I also loved that with every major panel, Silicon Valley Comic Con had professional ASL interpreters for our hard-of-hearing and deaf fans. I absolutely LOVED that – and so I wanna give a special thank you to SVCC for being so inclusive. With that said, the stage is filled by Mr. Lewis and our host/interviewer, Dana, or as she’s known among her peers, “The Notorious DHK!” Once they’re comfortably seated, she jumps right into the questions:
What’s your favorite part of acting on screen versus acting on stage?
Matt: “Uh, well I enjoy doing theater every once in a while…and I get asked this question a lot on whether I enjoy theater or screen, all the time. And if I prefer the screen it’s only because I’m very lazy. The Theater is…there’s nothing else quite like it. The opportunity to go and rehearse for weeks, you can really inhabit and become a role like no other medium of acting. There’s nothing quite like it. But it’s an awful lot of work, it’s a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of real serious melt downs, and deciding whether you’re really good, whether you can do this and you can learn so much and you’ve had an amazing and fulfilling experience. The thing about being on screen is the diversity of it. At one point I was filming Ripper Street and Happy Valley simultaneously, so I’d be playing a very straight-laced policeman one day, and the next day I’d be a sex offender!”
Do you find it crazy to say “Yes I’ve been doing this job for 23 years?”
Matt: “Luckily people DO keep giving me work…I count my lucky stars that I am still working. But yes, It’s insane to say that.”
Speaking of Ripper Street…do you miss the mustache?
Matt: “God no, I had that mustache for 8 months. And as I explained I’d been doing Happy Valley at the same time, and I turned up on the set of Happy Valley with a mustache and side burns which, contractually I wasn’t allowed to cut. And they went “No it’s great, you look like a sex offender! It’s brilliant!” So I had that for 8 months.
Apologies to anyone who has a mustache. What’s funny is that everyone assumed, people I know, you know…family, friends, none of them – not a single person put two and two together and thought “Oh, must be for a role.”
Dana: They thought you just lost your mind, right?
Matt: “They were all like ‘Aw, look at this pretentious actor, coming in here with his stupid Victorian mustache. Who does he think he is?’ But I went to Australia for two months and I was the height of fashion there! They thought I was the coolest.”
J.K Rowling seems to like to troll us plebs by tweeting out things about our characters that we didn’t know, so what would you like her to reveal about Neville Longbottom?
Matt: “I would like to think that Neville became a professor of Herbology, but underneath that he’s actually like a secret agent…like MI6 or CIA, and he has to take time off of school and go to foreign countries, like Indiana Jones! During the day he’s a professor and at night he goes out and solves wild mysteries, or defeats spies, or even defeats Nazis perhaps. He’s got a whip as well, which he uses for…all manners of things.”
I loved The Syndicate, and I would like to know what you’d do if you won the lottery?
Matt: “Certainly not what my character did in that. (Potential spoilers) The Syndicate was a BBC show, it was the first on-screen work I did after Harry Potter, and my character won the lottery, and the things he did were just awful. He did many, many things. He beat up Timothy Spall, I smashed him over the head with a bottle of whiskey, I spent my winnings on a strip club, I tried to steal my brother’s fiance, and ended up dying in a high speed crash. Sorry, ruined the end of it, but it was seven years ago. If you haven’t seen it, you ain’t gonna watch it. Anyway, so if I won the lottery, I’d like to think I’d give most of it away. Genuinely. I’m fortunate that I’m comfortable in life.”
Of all the characters you’ve played, who do you admire the most?
Matt: “It has to be Neville, I think. Most of the roles I’ve played have been insufferable and awful people, so Neville is the only one I can look at and say he’s the truest, he’s the most pure, he’s the one that had the most against him and still came out the other side being a good person. Someone who was able to fight through adversity. I mean there were so many opportunities to take that wrong path, the dark side as it were, he must’ve been tempted many times to take the easy route. I mean, he was bullied at school, so why should he help defend these people, the people who’d turn on him as soon as wish him good morning. But he never lost sight of who he was, he never forgot what happened to his parents, he had a fierce loyalty to his parents, and he always believed in doing the right thing no matter what. I think that’s a very inspirational quality.”
What character do you think you’re the most like in real life?
Matt: “Neville when I was younger, absolutely. We grew up in parallel, as he evolved and became more comfortable in himself, so did I. Both as an actor, and a human being. We both shared a lot of the same paths in our lives. So when I was younger, Neville. But now, as I’m older, I think a character I played, a British Soldier named Gordon House, he was from Leeds where I’m from, and he was basically me, if I got to say the most awful things that I always want to say to people, but social etiquette means that I can’t. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, and he was a lot of fun to play.”
Do you think it was a conscious or subconscious decision to play roles that distanced you from your first major role?
Matt: “It wasn’t like..a choice, it wasn’t like I was turning down roles that were like that, these were just really the offers that sort of came in. I mean, you’ll get the roles that you’ll audition for, and tape for, and meet for, but you don’t really want to do them. Whether subconsciously or not, you look at it and go ‘My heart isn’t really in this.’ But no they’re the ones that came up and frightened me, because I don’t really understand them.”
Have there been any of the roles, where you just really weren’t into it, but you took them anyway and they turned out to be amazing or Surprising?
Matt: “The first thing I did after Harry Potter, I did a play and it was an Agatha Christie play, and this was one she wrote later on in life. It wasn’t your typical Agatha Christie ‘Who-Done-It?” You saw who the killer was in the first act. So I did that, and the reason I did it was because the late-great Alan Rickman suggested that I do theater, so I took that advice. I was woefully unprepared, I hadn’t appreciated what it meant to be a theater actor…I had awful reviews, I wasn’t interested in the piece, I wasn’t interested in the character, I just did it because I thought I had to and it was an awful way to approach any kind of work. The reviews were rightfully appalling – not for the play, it was just me. One article said ‘my voice was excruciating.’ and so what I did was I had one of those meltdowns, and I said to myself, ‘What am I gonna do?’ and one of my best friends said ‘You’re not terrible, you just haven’t worked at it.’ So I sat down with the director and the other cast and asked how can I be better? and they didn’t have to but they sat down and gave me remedial lessons, and the director basically taught me how to do it. By the end of the tour, the reviews had basically flipped around. It woke me up to a whole new world of potential that I could achieve.”
Dana: It’s weird that they picked on you for your voice though.
Matt: “Well it wasn’t like…it was because I wasn’t projecting, I was basically shouting on the stage. Everyone else is projecting from their diaphragm, and I’m just on the stage shouting ‘HELLO. I’M ON THE STAGE NOW.’ It must’ve been awful for people to listen to for two hours. Every time I came on stage, they must’ve gone ‘oh Christ, it’s him again.'”
Naturally, Dana did turn the panel over to questions from the audience, and they had some crazy good questions to ask. Fans are definitely the best to go to!
If you could have any magical object except a wand, what would it be?
Matt: “The time turner would be the most useful. Why don’t they use it more? I mean…they used it to save like..a bird. Which wasn’t really that valuable to the story. I mean, it was cute! But was it really necessary to go and save the bird thing? If I had access to it I would use it more.”
Dana: What would you use it for?
Matt: “Well better than saving a bird!”
What was your favorite spell in Harry Potter?
Matt: “I’ve changed my mind on this a few times, mostly because I forget them, but I liked Expelliarmus because I liked the way it rolled off the tongue, but I would’ve used Alohamora more often than anything else ’cause I get locked out of my house all the time.”
Do you have any fascinating stories of working with Alan Rickman that you can share?
Matt: “I’m not sure if it’ll be fascinating for you, but it was fascinating for me. I was a fan of him my entire life, I saw Die Hard much younger than anyone should see that movie. I loved so much of his work, and he was a very intimidating person to work with when he was playing Professor Snape, which is very contrary to how he is in real life. He’s very charming and very approachable and very very friendly, he was a very warm and generous person. But I was too afraid to talk to him, I didn’t speak to many of the grown-up actors as it were, until I was about 20. I was very similar to Neville, I was very nervous. On the last day of his work [On Harry Potter] I decided I was finally brave enough to go and talk to him. So I went to his trailer, I knocked on the door and I said ‘Hey Alan, I don’t know what this film meant to you frankly, your catalog is enormous, but to me, working with you is a pinnacle I’ll never reach again.” and he said come in, and we put the kettle on and talked about a whole host of different things.”
In Me Before You, what were some challenges you faced while filming this movie?
Matt: “Well I’d read the book, so I was aware of the character and stuff. I didn’t immediately think I fit into the character or role, which I think about many of the characters I do. But I was acutely aware that it was a book that people loved and were fond of, and you want to get as close to their vision as possible. And so Sam was being heavily trained for that movie, they were trying to get him to lose a lot of weight because he had big ol’ rippling muscles from hunger games, and he was trying to lose them all. What a nightmare for him. So they got me with a man called Tim Blakely, who works with Daniel Craig while he was doing James Bond. They made us do some very awful things and we ate basically nothing, and it was great! I couldn’t have alcohol or Carbohydrates for four months.”
Dana: And you said it was great?
Matt: “Yeah well, I mean I thought ‘When else am I gonna get to work with the guy who trains James bond?’ True story, when I was done I ate an entire giant stuffed crust pepperoni pizza, I ate 5 Cadbury creme eggs, I drank several pints of beer, I ate half a loaf of bread – I don’t even eat bread! – and I was on my way to another pub when the first A.D called and said ‘Hey are you free tomorrow?’ And I said why, and he said “We have to re-shoot some of the stuff,” and it was some stuff in some very very tight spandex. I even left the pub and did squats in the gym, that’s how awful I felt.”
Out of any book or play that you’ve read, which would you like to do in the future, if you could choose?
Matt: “Well, I’ve just seen in the last few months they’re doing the Witcher series. I’ve read all the books, and played all the video games, and Netflix is making a series about that, which is very exciting. I call my manager up every week and I’m like ‘Have we got a script yet? Can I read the script? I don’t even have to be in it, I just want to read the script, can I read the script?’ But I’m really excited for it. I don’t care if I’m part of it, I don’t care if I’m in the background, I just want to see it.”
Did you ever get into any pranks with the cast while working on various projects?
Matt: “Yeah, so we used to prank call people a lot. Rupert [Grint] was very good at it. I won’t name any names, but we had a supporting artist on the set that had quite a crush on Emma [Watson], I mean who didn’t? And he used to spend a lot of time talking to Emma, and she was always very polite. So one day, we called Emma…Rupert called Emma, and pretended to be this guy and said that he got her number off the call sheet – which wasn’t on the call sheet but she believed it. And he asked if she wanted to go to Thorpe Park which was a theme park nearby, and Emma was so sweet and she was so flustered, she didn’t know what to do or say.
When she found out it was us, she was furious. She was absolutely livid in only a way that Emma Watson can be.
What is the best Harry Potter movie?
Dana: Die Hard.
Matt: “I’ve only seen them all once, at the premiere. I voiced Neville in the Dimensions video game, and I had to go back and watch the first movie, and it was meant to be Neville when he was very young. I got halfway through and as soon as I came on screen I was like “Nah, I’m done!” turned it off and threw it out the window. I guess the one that’s most vividly in my mind is the last one, it’s quite a different experience for me, so it’s a culmination of 10 years of work, it’s coming to an end. It was more than just a movie coming to a close for me, it was a whole chapter of my life. Also the stuff I got to do in it, I got to blow up a bridge…throw around a sword for a bit.
Fan: Mine was Half-blood prince.
Matt: (jokingly) “Well I was hardly in that movie, so I don’t care. Go sit down.”
Have you ever found it hard to get away or coming out of a role, and come back to yourself?
Matt: “Absolutely, it is. I think theater more so than anything else. In theater you’re so in that bubble, in that world, and there’s so much pressure and stress and self doubt that come with it. It’s very difficult to switch off. Especially when you’re inhabiting characters on more…nefarious planes of existence as it were. When I was on Happy Valley, that character was a very tortured soul, a very dark character. I had two days off, and I didn’t want to come too much out of it, so you kind of shut yourself away for the weekend. You don’t wanna see anything that makes you happy. You start snapping at people close to you, family and friends, luckily I had good family and friends who appreciate that. It’s not acceptable, but it happens.
It’s interesting more than anything else.”
When you were in Harry Potter, did you see yourself as a role model for teens and young adults?
Matt: “I don’t intrinsically see myself as that. It’s not an easy thing for me to accept. But when I come to events like this and I see where Neville has touched so many different fans and made such an impact in their lives, it’s very very humbling. It really blows you away. It’s a job, at the end of the day, and it’s easy to forget what kind of impact you can make.”
I was wondering if you’d ever taken anything from a set, and if not, what would you take?
Matt: “I’ve stolen so much stuff. From Ripper’s Street I got my whole detective uniform that I wore. I didn’t steal it, they gave me that. I stole a piece of the maze from goblet of fire. Don’t know why, just a bit of kleptomania came out. I got my false teeth, because…that’s disgusting, no one else would want that. I got Neville’s entire costume from the entire movie. I literally stole that, on the last day of work, actually.”
And on that note, the panel had to end, otherwise I would’ve sat there all day listening to him speak. I hope you enjoyed some of his answers, and be sure to check out The Game Of Nerds for more amazing articles!