Matthew Lewis | Interview
Matthew Lewis, 22, plays Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potterseries. Lewis, from Leeds, England, grew from a chubby 11-year-old to a rising heartthrob over the span of the eight films. We sat down with him to talk about growing up in front of the camera, the evolution and importance of the character Neville Longbottom, and his plans for the future.
Daniel Gerzina: So a whirlwind tour, huh?
Matthew Lews: I was in Washington yesterday morning, Toronto, in Canada the day before, and New York the day before that. So I stayed 18-20 hours in each town, really.
DG:Where are you heading after this?
ML: Tonight we’re heading back to London for 12 hours and then off to Sydney, Australia. Why we’re going that way I have no idea, just the availability of flights I think.
DG: So if we can get into a couple things about the film. Of course that’s why I’m here, that’s why we’re both here.
DG: First of all, what was it like growing up on camera and having the fans and media seeing you change from year to year?
ML: Ummm well I struggle with the older films. I’m very self-conscious as an actor, with performances and things, and I don’t like watching my own stuff. Even this last film I’m just sort of like “yeesh.” And you couple that with my chubby cheeks and high pitched voice and it’s not something I want to watch too often. My parents love it. I don’t actually own the DVDs. My parents’ do, I don’t. That’s a terrible confession. I love the films, I think they’re great, but I don’t want to actually go back and watch them. You know, growing up on Harry Potter was, um, was ok. Obviously I was growing up on camera, which is a bit surreal and odd. But I’m very lucky. I lead these two separate lives, you know. I’ve got my life doing Harry Potter where I travel the world and meet these people as we discussed and do fantastic things that I’m very lucky to do. And when I go back home to Leeds, my home city, I have all the same friends I had before. I go to the pub, go shopping, and I’m relatively left alone. It’s nice; I’ve got the best of both worlds. I’m looking forward to, after all this media attention this week; I’m looking forward to going back to England and sort of melting away into sort of relative obscurity again.
DG: You’ve been acting since you were what, five-years-old? Is that something you want to do or do you want to live outside of public life for a while?
ML: I do want to act, acting is what I want to do. Obviously with that comes the, um (loud sirens outside outside cut him off and cause laughter). I’m very comfortable being at home and keeping my head down, really. It’s nice being invited to night clubs and stuff, which is nice once in a while, but I prefer to kind of keep to myself. I’d like to stay in the industry but not sort of slashed in the newspapers all the time. It’s a bit overwhelming.
DG: I’m sure. So you want to do something a little more low-key?
ML: Yes. I’d be happy just, well, as an actor you want to be doing stuff that’s watched by people and appreciated. It doesn’t mean that if someone offers me a film in Hollywood I’m not going to turn my back on it. It’s just all very, I’m trying to process everything from the last week though. It’s a bit crazy and so I don’t really know what I want to do as my next project.
DG: But you definitely want to act.
ML: Yes. I’ve been doing theater in the last six months in the U.K. You have the odd person at the stage door waiting for signatures but it wasn’t packed houses every night. It was just a low-key theater production. It was at some of the best theaters in the country. It was just kind of small and I really enjoyed it. It was a far cry on what I’ve done on Harry Potter and I’m happy doing stuff like that.
DG: It doesn’t sound like you’re a big fan of the limelight. You know, Potter fans have the reputation of being a little fanatic.
ML: They’re actually lovely, they really are. And hearing all the nice things and the reception and the feedback you get is so nice. And it’s very flattering. It’s just, I don’t know. I’ve had a good week of it, and it’s enjoyable. But it’s, I think it’s nice in moderation. And I’m ready to just go home and disappear for a bit.
DG: Do people recognize you on the street all the time?
ML: Back home it’s all right; I don’t get it too much. But I’ve not been back since. I’ve not really been out of this promotion bubble since the film really took off since the premiere in London and the release yesterday. So I’m not sure, we’ll find out when I finish this promotion and go home. I’m hoping things will be back to normal but we’ll see (laughs.)
DG: You mentioned you were self conscious about the earlier films. Do you feel that way about the later films too?
ML: Yea, definitely. This play has given me a tremendous amount of confidence actually, from before. Just self-belief that I can play something else and other stuff. But I still don’t like watching myself. I think as an actor you’re always learning, you’re always trying to experience more things. So every time you watch something you’ve done previously you always think you could have done better the moment you’ve seen it because you’ve had more life experiences and you’ve grown. So yea, I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with a performance of mine.
DG: Well that’s just life in general though.
ML: I think so, yeah.
DG: You always feel like there’s things that you could do better if you can go back and do things again. So it sounds like you’re in some ways happy that it’s over. I’m sure it must be bittersweet for you. I’m sure you’re going to miss parts of it, the filming.
ML: Absolutely, yeah. I’ve had so much fun being within this world of Harry Potter and it’s been excellent. It’s been a dream come true, to be honest. I was a huge fan of the books and wanted to be involved in the film.
DG: You were 11 or 12?
ML: I was ten when I was cast and 11 when I started. It was a dream come true at that age and I just wanted to be in Harry Potter. Little did I know the scale of what it was that we were getting into. But I’ve loved every minute of it I really have. I’ll miss working on the production of it with everybody and seeing all my friends on the cast and crew. But at the same time I don’t know what I’m doing next and that’s quite exciting as an actor, I’m excited to do some other stuff.