In a weird way, I often think about how much my time during high school mirrored Harry’s time at Hogwarts. When I turned up aged 12 in 2010, I immediately became known as “the Harry Potter kid”, mainly because I had already introduced myself as being in the next Harry Potter film. Had Snape been my chemistry teacher, I’m sure he’d have prefaced our first lesson with “Rohan Gotobed, our new… celebrity.” Like Harry, I was an object of weird fascination.Then, once the film came out and everyone realised I was only in it for six seconds (my friends counted), I felt a lot like Harry probably does about 99% of the time. However, there were always younger Colin Creevey-esque students who were fascinated with me, and I probably split opinion between teachers as to whether I was lovely or arrogant. Then, came sixth form, I began to book more acting roles and all of a sudden I knew what Harry felt like at Hogwarts during Half Blood Prince. After my episode of Doctors aired in June 2015, I suddenly had people coming up to me saying “wow, you are actually a decent actor.” That was nice.
Meanwhile, I want to skip back to Year 8; my first year at Grammar school. My excitement began in October,when my family and I were invited to a cast and crew screening of Deathly Hallows Part 1. This sticks in my mind for two reasons; partly because I met one of my heroes (Stephen Fry) in the cinema, and he was so lovely; and partly because it was the first time I got to meet some of my fellow young actors. Our mums had all been chatting, so it was that Me, Ellie, Benedict, Arthur (Albus), Will (James Sirius), Daphne (Lily Luna), Bertie (Scorpius), Ryan (Hugo) and Helena (Rose) shared a massive table at the Pizza Hut in Leicester Square. See the pictures below as evidence:
As we were lucky enough to keep our screening tickets, I still have one stuck to my desk, while another one was shut in my school’s time capsule; giving me one reason why I have to live to 2060. So I can get it back!
It was also around this time that I first got twitter. It took me a while to become vaguely interesting (tell me when I get there), but I do think I’ve been lucky enough to see very little of the ugly side of social media – thank god. Twitter did have its definite advantages at the time, for as soon as I began to build up a group of followers was I invited to Leaky Con 2011 in Orlando, Florida. Five years on, and this is still the only time I’ve been to the United States of America (or out of Europe for that matter), but that’s always liable to change. School were somehow happy to let me take a whole week off to effectively go on holiday, but before I could sun myself in sunny Florida, I had the little matter of the premiere to attend.
In the course of human history, I don’t think many people have had better excuses than me for missing my school’s sports day. Why aren’t you here? Because I’m going to be on the biggest red carpet of all time – that’s why!
The first half of July 2011 remains the best ten days of my life. It began with a tumultuous cast and crew screening on a sunday morning, where a big revelation came during the rolling credits. There I was, waiting for my name to appear in those white credity-letters, only for it to never appear. For whatever reason, the actor credited as playing Young Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was, in the cinema release, James Walters (who played the same character during Order of the Phoenix). That’s provided ammunition for my friends for years, though I don’t really mind. It’s pretty funny in my opinion. As soon as the producers heard of the mistake, dvd production was halted worldwide so that it could be corrected and, because it was too late to change the cinematic release, gifted me three more tickets to the world premiere and after party. Though I wanted to invite David Beckham, my mum forced me to bring my two sisters and dad.
I must be the best big brother ever.
The premiere itself was so amazing, words can’t describe it perfectly – though I’ll give it a go as this blog would be an anticlimax otherwise. I think we first step foot on the red carpet just after four, and the three hours it took to get from Trafalgar Square to my seat in the Odeon Leicester Square (sat just in front of Nick Moran and opposite from Jonathan Ross), were the craziest three hours of my life.
I plunged into the autographing chaos, signing anything and everything.
I got to say hi to some old friends.
and create an autograph collection to die for
Helena Bonham Carter was so lovely to meet, and I’ll always remember her apologising to me for killing Sirius Black!
I promise I don’t always name drop, but my autograph book from that day is really really special. Not to brag, but it contains: Ruper Grint, Damian Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Warwick Davis, Evanna Lynch, Jessie Cave, Helena Bonham Carter, David Thewlis, Alan Rickman, Andrey Arshavin (the footballer), Nick Moran, Jonathan Ross, Tom Felton, Imelda Staunton, Mark Williams, James and Oliver Phelps, Emma Watson, Graham Norton and another three names that I can’t identify.
From that list, there are a couple of obvious missing names: Gary Oldman and JK Rowling. Sadly I’ve never met Gary Oldman, which becomes more of a shame as you grow up to realize just how great an actor he is, but missing out on meeting Jo is still a bit of a regret of mine. I came close to saying hi during the ultra-exclusive after party on the banks of the river Thames, but she was surrounded by her entourage to such an extent all I could get was a brief glimpse of her. Luckily there was a free candy floss stand and chocolate fountains aplenty to distract me from my sorrow. Here’s a photo of me at half one in the morning, a bit tired out.
Needless to say, I wasn’t in school the next day. But when I turned up on Monday, I was namedropping like hell.
On Tuesday I went to Orlando.
Even now, every single memory I have of those few days is soooo positive. Even though I’m still cringing from my clothes in the above photo (that became a running theme for the next three years), the panels with the other kids were really fun and exciting. And for the first time in my life I really got the sense of what a fandom’s like.
By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released, I had already seen it three times. Once at the cast and crew screening, once at the premiere and once at Leaky Con. Each was special. The cast and crew because you really saw the pride everyone had in the finished film, the premiere because it was the first time so many people had watched Deathly Hallows, and at Leaky Con the fans’ reaction blew all of us away. During the screening, Benedict, Ellie and I (already in a playful mood after spending the day at Universal Theme Park), made up a game where we each tried to start a round of applause wherever there was a moment which we thought the crowd would like (such as Ron and Hermione’s kiss in the chamber of secrets). I think Ben won.
The audience was awesome, and watching that film in that screening remains the best experience in a cinema I’ve ever had. Even the subsequent episode of Muggle Cast felt obliged to mention it, such as a guy who kept blowing his nose between floods of tears, while that moment during The Prince’s Tale where Snape holds Lily’s lifeless corpse was especially shattering. For those two hours, let alone the fun I had around Orlando at the convention and theme parks, I will never forget LeakyCon 2011.
Writing this series of blog posts was, like most things I do, a spur of the moment moment. In this case, the moment was spurred by my visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour last week, where I had the eleven o’clock tour on the 1st September. Though I was able to visit back during Leaky Con 2013, this time I got to show my friends around in full ego-satisfying mode. Though it was a great day, one of the greatest moments was the wand room at the end of the tour.
For those of you who don’t know, the wand room contains thousands of wand boxes – each one dedicated to someone who worked on the Harry Potter films. In 2013 we were running behind, so our visit to the room was over in a minute or so. This time I was able to spend ages and ages there, looking at all the boxes and pointing out the names of people I knew. Some of them were obvious, like Ellie or Ryan, but there were other names of cast or crew members who I’ve worked with on other programs. Then there were mine.
Yes – I have two. I don’t know why, and I might not be the only one, but it’s cool while it lasts.
Seeing your name in that magical room does take your breath away, because it makes you feel so proud. I spent two days filming at Leavesden Studios, but I was made as welcome there as someone who had spent two thousand days filming. People have spent their lives making the Harry Potter films, and I’ve always felt an obligation to justify the trust and love I’ve felt as a result of playing Young Sirius Black. At LeakyCon 2013 a French fan called Laetitia gave me a present of a Man Utd branded pencil case and writing notebook and I came close to breaking down in tears – so moved by her generosity.
So, how did Harry Potter change my life? If you look at it externally, then maybe it didn’t. It was one small acting job, and I didn’t get another major project until Hoff the Record, which filmed exactly five years after my first Potter audition. But then again, internally, being part of the Harry Potter world has made me the person I am today. Without even concentrating on how the books have changed my life, just being a tiny tiny cog in the cinematic franchise has taught me so much about fame and fandom. I’ve met some lifelong friends, learnt some valuable lessons, and wouldn’t trade it away for a million dollars. Honestly, all I can say to you, dear reader, and to you, dear harry potter fan, is…
Thank you. For a dream come true.
This was the final part of a series of three blog posts I’ve written about my time on the Harry Potter series. The first, “Harry Potter and Me” concerns how I was cast while the second, “Harry Potter and I” tells the story of my days on set. Both can be found elsewhere on this website – enjoy!