For some, Supanova Pop Culture Expo is the highlight of their year. It’s a chance for them to get up close and personal with their favourite characters and to feel connected to the actors that bring them to life. We spoke to Supanova guest James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter series, about life post-Potter.
This year, the Brisbane leg of the tour runs from November 28-30 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the Supanova team are rolling out the on-screen royalty by bringing a stellar lineup to their expos.
Make sure you get there early to catch a glimpse of Jack Gleeson, who played Joffrey Baratheon in the television series Game of Thrones; veteran voice actor Peter Cullen, who is best known as the voice of Optimus Prime from the Transformers franchise; Oliver and James Phelps, who played George and Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter series; Neve McIntosh, who took on the role of Madam Vastra in Dr Who; and X-Men artist Arthur Adams, among many, many others.
With such a plethora of talent attending, we were lucky enough to get one of the Weasley twins on the phone. James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter series, is the younger of the twins, coming in to the world 13 minutes after his brother Oliver.
Growing up, the boys were both natural pranksters (much like the Weasley Twins) and sometimes switched their names and confused their teachers. James finished the first book of the Harry Potter series just as their mother told them about a fateful audition in Leeds. A few days after the audition, the whole family was in the living room. The phone rang and their mother answered. When she was asked the question “Is the mother of the Weasley twins there?” her answer was “No”. Eventually the penny dropped and the boys were on their way to international recognition and the start of their acting adventure.
After accepting the roles, the twins dyed their brown hair the traditional Weasley ginger (and even went as far as dying their eyebrows). Just like the rest of the cast, the boys literally grew into their role — they started out at 5’5″ but in the final film, The Deathy Hallows, they were measured at 6’3″.
When we called, James was sitting pretty over in Los Angeles and ready to answer our questions.
What is it like now that Harry Potter is finally finished? Is your life different now?
I almost want to say that it’s not that incredibly different to when we were filming the HP movies, except that now we’re not filming. So there is that one large difference. But honestly, other than that, there is always something being opened or that needs promotion so it’s like a never ending thing. But I am doing other acting work and travelling more so we’ve got more time to do other things as well, which is a lovely thing.
Will you ever be able to disengage from the HP juggernaut? And would you want to?
I don’t think I want to disengage from HP. In fact, personally I don’t really understand people who have been part of a big thing like HP or another franchise and they say they don’t want to talk about it. Because without that, you wouldn’t be where you are today. It’s always good to have it on the CV but it’s also always great to move onto the next challenge or the next project. But I’m very aware that I’ll never get anything as big or as good as Harry Potter again and if I did, honestly I think I would feel like the luckiest man in the world.”
You have been to many Harry Potter events, premieres and openings – do you always get asked the same thing?
Yes, we do often get asked similar questions, but the one that we always get asked is ‘did we really swap parts on set?’ Which unfortunately is a no, as we’re pretty boring. The reason that we never swapped and played around with being a twin was that I would never want to be the reason that 300 people on set had to work late. I’m always asked this question because there were rumours on the internet that me and my brother did switch roles for fun and scenes needed to be reshot because we had messed around. Which wasn’t true.
And we always get comments on our hair. Like, ‘I can’t believe you’re not a redhead’. That’s the first thing that people tend to ask and want to talk about, especially if they meet me in person.
This isn’t your first Supanova tour to Australia, is it? What do you think of Australia?
We’ve actually done two tours here and travelled around the whole country. And it’s been really fun to do. And the Supanova team are very encouraging about exploring Australia while we’re here so it’s not a fly in and fly out trip. When we land, we might stay somewhere like Adelaide for a week and then the following week in Brisbane so it’s so good that we get to explore the towns that we’re in.
And they fly us in business class as well so I’m very happy. It’s one of those things where I already love to travel and explore and see new places so when I get into a city, the next day I’ll go for a jog around the streets and just get lost to find some of the local spots. I don’t like to go where the tourists go, I’d rather go where the locals are hanging out.
Do you get recognised when you’re not next to your twin and you don’t have red hair?
I actually still do, but weirdly enough, it mainly happens when I’m wearing a baseball hat or something where my hair is covered. People seem to recognise the face then, whereas when I’m not wearing a cap, people seem to second guess themselves because I don’t have the red hair.
Supanova is synonymous with passionate fans — can you understand the level of devotion they have for a character?
To a degree I can understand it. It would be like if I was meeting my favourite soccer or football heroes as I’m a big sports fanatic. It’s quite nice, actually, because we’ve always found, especially with the fans in Australia, that they are just so happy for you to be there and they always want to make sure you have a good time in their country. They don’t just turn up and want you to sign the photo and then leave. They want to hang out and want to talk to you.
The Aussie fans especially are just very cool. And I also like that you can have good banter with them, which I really enjoy as well.
James and Oliver Phelps will appear at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo from 28-30 November at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.