Harry Potter actor Matthew Lewis on why he’s relishing his new life in the theatre
MATTHEW Lewis’s first meeting with his new boss Bill Kenwright didn’t go quite as the schoolboy wizard mate of one H Potter had envisaged.
Fetching up outside Kenwright HQ early for his audition for touring two-hander The Haunting, the young actor bumped into the impresario outside.
“He said where are you from?” recalls the 21-year-old. “I said I’m from Leeds, and the first thing he said to me was ‘oh I hate Leeds’, and I thought this is a good start!
“But he was really good and we started chatting about football. I think Everton had just signed Jermaine Beckford from Leeds at the time so we had a chat about that and got on really well.”
While Matthew, fresh out of Hogwarts where he’s spent seven years as clumsy Neville Longbottom, didn’t get that particular role, he obviously made an impression on the Blues boss because a month later he got the call asking if he’d like to join the cast of Agatha Christie’s Verdict which comes to the Floral Pavilion next week.
Surprisingly, despite more than 15 years in the business, Verdict is Matthew’s first stage play, and he says he’s learned a lot since taking on the role of idealistic young university student Lester Cole four months ago.
“I’m not going to lie,” he says. “I’m not a theatre actor and it’s been really hard work and it’s still not there now.
“I think your entire career is a learning process, I don’t think you can ever be a complete actor so I’m still very much learning these theatre ropes but it’s come a long way I think.
“It’s been quite an experience.”
Matthew started acting at the age of five and the self-professed Harry Potter fan was 10 when he persuaded his mother to take him to auditions for the first film.
His career could have been very different if he’d agreed to her suggestion, after several hours waiting to be seen, to give up and go for a burger instead.
But the determined youngster stuck to his guns and was picked to play Harry Potter’s schoolfriend Neville Longbottom.
Seven films and a multi-million pound franchise later, he’s preparing to promote the final Hogwarts outing, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this summer.
And audiences can expect some heroics from Matthew’s young wizard.
He explains: “I’m really fortunate this final film is the one that I’ve been most heavily involved with and I get to go out on quite a high.
“Neville gets really beaten and battered but he’s quite resilient and he refuses to back down and there’s some really really nice moments for him this year.
“I’m just looking forward to the tour and I’m quite excited for the future because Harry Potter has been my main focus for such a long time, so you’re a bit nervous about where you’re going in the future.
“But I’ve had this job on Verdict and it’s been fun, I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s given me a little bit more confidence that I can actually go out there and do more stuff.”
That ‘stuff’ also includes a low budget movie, The Sweet Shop, co-starring Gemma Atkinson, where Matthew plays a ‘nasty’ journalist – a breed he’s quick to point out that he’s never encountered.
In the meantime, there’s the ongoing tour of Verdict.
He smiles: “I feel I’ve learned so much, and I’m looking forward to my next audition for TV and film now.”
Agatha Christie’s Verdict is at the Floral Pavilion from May 23-28.