FP: It was funny to read your perception on how divisive the Voldemort hug became between the UK and the US audiences, and how it was improvised. As was the “I didn’t know you can read” line. I know you also mentioned in the book that they ran a tight ship when it came to sticking to the script, but were there any other times you improvised or maybe wish that you could have improvised at certain moments?
TF: The improvisation of the line “I didn’t know you could read” was a very on the day thing. The Voldemort hug — I don’t think Ralph [Fiennes] even knew that he was about to hug me. That’s why it was so creepy. When his arms are open and, bear in mind, we shot that scene at least 50 times already. I’d already walked past him at least 50 times. And then, that time, when his arms are open, I thought, “There’s no bloody way he’s trying to hug me. Oh God, he is!” So, that’s why I think it was so creepy and so evil [for him to] present a physical sort of affection. I mean, not as much improvising. I know the books were all so rich with characters and content that I’m sure loads of fans out there, like myself, would have wanted. But the truth is the films would have been seven hours long if we put in absolutely everything. So, I think they did a fantastic job fitting in as much as they possibly could.
FP: Toward the end of the book, you so eloquently open up about your struggles while living in Los Angeles, and your time in rehab, which is a very vulnerable topic. Was it a cathartic process for you to write about? Or challenging in any way?
TF: I find writing pretty similar to talking to a friend. It’s nice to put it down on paper. So, you can imagine Penguin and Ebury’s surprise when I walked up with a stack of little scribbles on pieces of paper and not some organized document. Because it’s quite difficult to put it into format. But, yes and no. None of it was written down with the full preparation of other people reading it, which I hope will really lend itself toward the genuine nature of the book and my voice. Because it’s written conversationally, and it’s supposed to sound like me talking to you. Because that’s exactly what it was. Trying to put it into context and processing all those difficult times I had, especially what I mention toward the end of the book, is from the encouragement that I had from other people. A lot of my Potter cast mates, my family, and Emma specifically, gave me a lot of bravery to feel comfortable sharing. I don’t know what the response is going to be. But I’m more than comfortable to share my vulnerability in the hope that other people that are going through similar things won’t feel so confined to have to keep them to themselves. So, fingers crossed that [this] will help them through their moments of darkness.
FP: It was very moving and powerful to read.
TF: I was quite keen to not leave it out, but I didn’t really feel the need to talk about it too much. It was only through the encouragement of others who said that it’s quite uplifting to hear other people talk about their own struggles. I’m hoping that it will be empowering to other people that they get a chance to know that they’re not alone.
FP: I do feel like I need to ask, since at BuzzFeed, we work to provide a safe space for our readers — and Hogwarts has been such a safe space for so many readers and fans throughout the years. But highly criticized anti-trans statements from J.K. Rowling has caused so many to feel excluded, to say the least. I wondered if you had any intention of echoing the sentiments of your cast mates, Dan, Rupert, and Emma and advocating for and standing by trans and nonbinary individuals?
TF: It’s difficult to weigh them with specificity because I don’t know. My dog and my family and friends keep me far too busy to go into exactly what people have said or not said. All I can say is that I’m very pro-discussion, pro-love, pro-people, and so, in that regard, I’m very pro-Potter, because in my experience, at least, I’ve been so lucky to travel the world with Potter through Comic Cons. And I’ve not seen a single part of the world that hasn’t been positively influenced by these books, and [it] has brought more people together than anything else that I know. So, for that reason, I’m really, really grateful for the Harry Potter stories. I’m really grateful that Jo woke up one day and chose to write them down. All of the others’ specific politics, I couldn’t speak to, and I think it would be irresponsible for me to wade in on something that I just simply don’t know enough about.
FP: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
TF: I hope they know a little bit more about me, I suppose. But again, I’m encouraged to bring it back to Potter. I think we all — in fact, I know we all — when we finished the filming, we fully expected the Potter fandom to sort of start dwindling a bit and maybe start to sort of die down. Clearly, that hasn’t happened. Most fans that come up to me now and ask me to say “Potter” or whatever, weren’t even born when we were making those first films. And I’m reminded, especially with the sad passing of Robbie Coltrane, that these are fantastical tales. And they’re all fun and games. But actually, there’s so many positive, moral elements of the story that keep bringing people together. So, I can only hope that this book will be an extension of that.
FP: I truly am so sorry to hear about Robbie’s passing over this past weekend and wanted to just express my deepest sympathies to you and your cast mates.
TF: I talk about it in the book, but he set the tone very fast. He sat next to Emma [at the table read], and he whispered in her ear before they started. So, I was like, “I’m Tom Felton, and I play Draco,” and Emma Watson and Robbie obviously switched, so Emma was like, “Hi I’m Emma Watson, and I play Rubeus Hagrid” — and you had Robbie Coltrane saying the opposite. That set the tone for how much fun we all were allowed to have on the films. So, I will always be very grateful for Robbie’s influence.
FP: Tom, thank you again for your time. My last question — what’s next for you?
TF: Well, I’ve got a very hungry Labrador, so she’ll be needing attending. I just finished doing a theater run in London, and I sort of purposefully sort of carved out the rest of the year to sort of enjoy talking about the book. And I’ve got music on the way. I’ve got more literacy. But mostly, I’m just trying to keep spreading the good vibes.