Harry Potter and How It Changed My Life

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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:

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(L-R) Ryan, Helena, Arthur, Will, Hattie, Me and Melissa

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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.

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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.

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If only I had David Beckham’s phone number

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.

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I plunged into the autographing chaos, signing anything and everything.

 

I got to say hi to some old friends.

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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.

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Needless to say, I wasn’t in school the next day. But when I turned up on Monday, I was namedropping like hell.

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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.

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Yes, I am wearing a Man Utd shirt. There were reasons. Not very good ones, but I had them.

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.

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I was really pleased to be back in blighty.

 

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.

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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…

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Thank you. For a dream come true.

Rohan

 

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! 

Harry Potter and I

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So, I had the part. Now I actually had to play it. Though Ellie and Benedict had the luxury of a locations shoot (to cover their pre-Hogwarts scenes), Alfie and I were only shooting for two days; scheduled a week apart. Still confined to “absolute secrecy”, my time at school reminds me of one of the best Dumbledore quotes: “What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally the whole school knows.”

However, just as I was getting ready for my role, disaster struck! Out of nowhere, I lost a tooth. Not literally – I just mean it fell out of my gums. Though on the set of nearly every other film every made, the producers wouldn’t bother to bat an eyelid, on Harry Potter it was agreed to send me over to Fangs FX, as a missing tooth could cause continuity problems.

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For those of you who don’t know, Fangs FX is Europe’s major provider of false teeth – the ones you see in movies/TV at least. Their work includes Dracula, Doctor Who, Little Britain and, naturally, Harry Potter. Earlier on in the series, I was told, Fangs FX had had to create lots of fake teeth for the young cast as each one fell out, so off I went to their labs to get fitted.

The process was quite simple, a mold was filled with horribly tasting gum for me to hold in my mouth for several minutes. Once that was done, it would be taken away and turned into, effectively, a gum-shield that was utterly transparent apart from the new tooth. All I’d have to do on set was to slip it on. Then, when the time came in my fitting for the mold to be removed, it was pulled out for us to see – with shock – that a tooth had come out with at the same time. Now I was missing two teeth and had to come back the following week. Second time lucky proved the charm and, when I first tried the teeth on in the makeup department a couple of weeks later, I was swiveled in my chair to see Daniel Radcliffe, beaming and as caught up in the excitement as everyone else. Unfortunately I didn’t get to keep my fake teeth, and have no idea what happened to them. Perhaps they’re in a Warner Brothers’ vault somewhere, or maybe they were destroyed after filming? No idea.

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My first day on set was a weird one. We were shooting the Great Hall scene, which was pretty amazing, but Alfie and I weren’t needed until later on in the day. As we were missing school, by law the film had to provide three hours of tutor-based education. This was comfortably everyone’s least favourite thing. Though the tutors were lovely people, the last thing you want to be doing is boring middle school homework when Hogwarts is literally a few feet away – and we certainly weren’t jealous as Benedict and Ellie were called away to do their scene with Maggie Smith (the short bit when Lily is sorted into Gryffindor). As lunch came and went, we’d done nothing.

A little aside, I do have to say how amazing the food on Harry Potter was. We would be guided to the Leavesden cafeteria (which I think was knocked down as part of the Studio Tour renovations), and effectively told to help ourselves. Needless to say, I would be pretty full an hour later. Cooler than the food though was the fact that all around the cafeteria were six massive cabinets, each one filled with props from a particular HP film. I saw the philosopher’s stone, the grim and several horcruxes as well as a huge stack of designs by Mina Lima. The grim teacup is the only prop I haven’t seen on the studio tour though.

The Grim

Evening came, and with only an hour left to shoot (due to legal restrictions on child actors), we were summoned to the great hall for the shot. By this stage, I think most people were quite tired, but it was amazing to see the Great Hall in action. The torches were being lit with real fire every five  minutes while, on our way inside, you couldn’t help but notice that the Entrance Hall was in ruins (they had already started filming the battle of hogwarts). There was a fair amount of pressure, but all I had to do was sit there and clap – what could go wrong? (Don’t answer that).

So, feeling happy with my first day, I went home to be called back the following Friday. Our final day of shooting was, it’s fair to say, much more exciting…

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Though at the time this image hadn’t surfaced, there was a little thing on my bucket list that I felt obliged to complete. On the day of my screen-test, once we’d arrived back home, I had begun to reread the Harry Potter book series, cover to cover. I’m a fast reader, so to achieve my goal I did have to slow down a little – particularly for the last couple of books. It was worth it, so that I turned up to set on Day 2 and finished rereading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the set of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think that was pretty cool.

For me and Alfie, our second day involved being a lot more active as we had to run up and down a corridor about a million times. When we shot the scene, Alfie and I were actually chasing a first year slytherin, but that detail was omitted in the edit. It seemed like a pretty cool shot – a reverse track that saw us run down one corridor before crossing into the one where we smash into Snape and Lily. On the first take, which one of my friends thinks was the one that made the final cut, Alfie actually tripped on one of the fallen books and fell over. Luckily that was one omen that didn’t set the tone for the day. After barely seeing him on the first day, David was at his most approachable when we were working on the scene. Though originally the scene was without dialogue, I suggested to him that I say “Snivellus” as we pushed through Snape and Lily. David agreed that was a good idea, and even gave me a second line later on in the day, where I was supposed to say “come on James” at the end of the brief scene. As you already know, both lines were cut for release in favour of Dan’s voiceover, which makes more sense in terms of the entire montage.

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So, I was done. Wrapped. I said my goodbyes, even though that wasn’t the last time I’d visit Leavesden. You see, my family had been offered a special behind-the-scenes tour around the studios, which was even better than the subsequent tourist attraction. On this tour, they were still filming, so I was able to see Robbie again – say hi – and tell him that my teacher loved Krull. To this day I’m not sure if he believed that. We were lucky enough to see the different departments, as well as seeing sets being built and destroyed all in one day. Had my association with Harry Potter ended there, I’d have died delighted.

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I was even luckier than that…

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter and Me

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Even without the gift of hindsight, I think there was always something inevitable about me and the world of Harry Potter become entwined. Growing up, like most people I was a huge Harry Potter fan. Every night I’d sleep to Stephen Fry’s impeccable audiobooks, and Prisoner of Azkaban was the first film I ever saw in a cinema. As the aforementioned cinema was only a small, independent one (a local theatre that enjoyed moonlighting), my mum managed to get me the massive display posters of both Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire, which served to decorate my room until they were replaced with Stuart Craig’s sketch of the Hogwarts Bridge. In fact, I won my nintendo wii (back when they were the next big thing) in a Harry Potter related competition. National Geographic’s magazine for kids was ran a ‘simple’ question to tie-in with the release of Order of the Phoenix. Asking me to identify the headmaster of Hogwarts, I (being me) immediately named Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Dolores Umbridge – probably throwing in Armando Dippet, Phineas Nigellus and Professor McGonagall for good measure. Needless to say, a couple of month’s later I received a massive package. The actual Order of Phoenix game was pretty rubbish, but the Wii was pretty amazing to say the least. While I’m discussing the HP video games, I have to say that; as much as I enjoyed the playstation versions of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, or the Quidditch World Cup thing, my favourite remains the PC edition of Prisoner of Azkaban – that was fun.

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So, all things considered, you can understand my delight when I was asked to audition for Deathly Hallows in October 2009. I hadn’t been acting for very long, and though I’d had castings for reasonably well known projects, this was the big cheese. At the time, long before any whispering of Cursed Child or Fantastic Beasts, I also thought this would be my last and only chance to be involved with JK Rowling’s world.

The first audition, with Fiona Weir, was at an office in Portobello Road, London. Though I was being seen primarily for Young Sirius, they also wanted to see me have a go at Young Snape. In the casting, I was tasked with an adaptation of the train scene from The Prince’s Tale. Whether or not this was ever actually going to appear in the final film I don’t know, but what’s certainly true is that we never filmed it. The only thing I can really remember was how I was asked to try playing the role less theatrically, as this was a long, long time before I really got the hang of naturalism on camera (please tell me when I do). I left the casting pretty pleased, but it wasn’t for another 2 months before I was asked for a recall at Pinewood Studios, on Monday 25th January 2010.

Pinewood Studios

Though my younger sister Hattie would later film elements of Snow White and the Huntsman at Pinewood, I was most excited about the recall because Pinewood was where they shot the James Bond films (and Mamma Mia). This was a special part of the process (all of it was), where I first met Alfie McIwan, who eventually played Young James. Interestingly, it was at this stage that Benedict and Ellie also worked together for the same time, though Alfie and I were acting with other auditionees. I remember that there were a lot of people waiting their turn in a big holding room, with loads of potential Jameses, Siriuses, Snapes and Lilies. When we were called, I met David Yates for the first time. Though I know that not every Harry Potter fan admires him, and even I didn’t like Order of the Phoenix first time I saw it, as an actor he was an absolute pleasure to work with. Even when we filmed our scenes, he was always willing to listen to our ideas and you clearly saw his affinity for the relationships between Sirius, James, Lily and Snape. In the recall we were asked to improvise a couple of short conversations, and at the end (when everyone else walked out) I did something that I’d never ever do nowadays – I asked David Yates for his autograph. As a ‘proper’ actor, I’d never ask for that now, but I was young and happily ignorant. So ignorant, in fact, that I ignored the fact that he signed my autograph book “to young Sirius”.

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All the way through my Harry Potter experience, I really enjoyed getting autographs from my fellow actors. At one stage I broke one of those ancient unwritten rules about getting autographs in the makeup room, when I saw Robbie Coltrane. Robbie, being a gent, was happy to sign my piece of paper, and also gave me the brilliant advice of “never getting a signature in biro, as it’ll eventually rub off.” Even now I still have a dedicated Hagrid doll that he would later autograph, as well as weird Harry Potter one inked by Dan. My favourite autograph, however, is probably from David Bradley. Growing up, Filch was one of the scariest characters in the world, so when I met him one day in full makeup and costume I was pretty amazed – even more so when he scrawled this:

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Anyway, after the recall I still had to wait a couple of months before I was asked to go to Leavesden for a screen test, as well as an associated costume, hair and makeup meeting. Having been forbidden from cutting my hair (I didn’t complain) for about 5/6 months previously, that’s why it’s so incredibly long in my photo with Dan, which was taken when I was at Leavesden for the makeup.

Daniel Radcliffe

I still remember far too much about this meeting, as it was one of the best moments of my life. My mum and I were being led from the costume department to the makeup department, as our guide mentioned that Dan was shooting that day. Already I was excited, amazed that I was in the same building as Daniel Radcliffe! Next thing I knew, we were in the corridor outside hair/makeup and a short-looking guy was talking to a little girl (who would later play Young Petunia). He turned around and – OH MY GOD – it was Harry Potter. Though I like to think that I don’t get starstruck that often, I could add little more to the subsequent conversation than a couple of nods. Dan welcomed us to the Potter family, and had to be literally dragged away when he was needed elsewhere. From that moment on, we were on first name terms.

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After the screentest, everything went silent for a while. Though now I presume my mum was still in contact with the other mums (Ellie, Benedict, Alfie and I were now all acquainted), we didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. I obviously wanted the part, but at that age so much of it was fresh and fun, I didn’t really appreciate the stakes.

Then one day I came home from middle school to find a soft owl toy in the lounge. It had a piece of paper taped to it, which read “to young Sirius, congratulations on getting the part.” I still have the paper somewhere, and I definitely kept the owl. One thing I certainly didn’t have, however, was any idea of what would come…

 

 

An Announcement

Hi Guys,

As some of you may have seen on Twitter last night, I am very pleased to announce that I will be attending the Cardiff Film and Comic Con on Sunday 25th October (subject to work commitments). I did an event for Showmasters (the guys who run it)back in 2013 and am really looking forward to meeting some of you either for the first time, or again!

My sister Hattie will also be attending the event. Some of you may know her from playing Ghita in the last series of Game of Thrones, or as playing a character called Lily opposite Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth in Snow White and the Huntsman.

For those of you intrigued as to who else has been announced so far, feel free to have a look at the webpage here: http://filmandcomicconcardiff.com/

I am also planning to go to the Bournemouth Film and Comic Con (probably on Saturday 29th August) where I will be acting as a fan rather than a guest. If you happen to be going along, you might very well bump into me in the queue to meet Sylvester McCoy!

Rohan