My Experience at the "19 Years Later" Harry Potter Event Hosted by Mugglenet Live!
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An unforgettable night at Diagon Alley.
Mugglenet.com is the world’s number one fan site for Harry Potter.
On September 1st, the site held the event Mugglenet Live! at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando theme park celebrating “19 years later.” Fans of the book know this date is special in the Harry Potter universe as being the day Harry’s son, Albus Severus Potter, boards the train for Hogwarts. The site wanted to do something special in celebration and offered limited tickets to a panel of cast members, and access to the Diagon Alley section of the park, free buffet and endless butterbeer until 1 a.m. I was lucky enough to attend.
The cast panel took place at Hard Rock Live Café at the entrance of Universal. The first panel consisted of the “young cast;” those who were children while filming the last film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: Ellie Darcey-Alden (Young Lily Evans), Rohan Gotobed (Young Sirius Black), and Ryan Turner (Hugo Weasley). A common theme of the answers given by these young actors dealt with the surprise and excitement of being in a Harry Potter film. Most of these actors (children at the time; now entering college) grew up reading and watching these films, and being genuine fans of the world. Not one of them ever thought they’d have this opportunity. Like any movie franchise of this magnitude, keeping the secret of their casting was the top priority, and the hardest thing to do. “I didn’t even tell my sister,” admitted Ryan Turner, who portrayed Ron and Hermione’s son. It was also difficult for Rohan Gotobed to keep the secret from his friends when a huge van with “Warner Brothers” written across its facing would pick him up in the morning.
While most of their involvement in the film is minor, each young cast member felt privileged to be a part of something so special, to be able to meet actors they admired and pick up a love of acting that may or may not continue. Each actor wants to attend school in some fashion and discover other passions.
The second panel consisted of older actors (not that old, but more so than panel one) who have been working in the film industry for some time, and had the pleasure in being in multiple Harry Potter films: Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood), Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley), Luke Youngblood (Lee Jordan), and Christian Coulson (Young Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). While not playing the main roles, each actor had more experience in the world, specifically in the earlier films. What each remembered and enjoyed about the experience was the comradery between cast members and crew; they knew they were doing something special. Christian Coulson, unfortunately, didn’t get to meet or work with much of the cast since his scenes were primarily filmed with Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley). But, luckily, he’s gotten to work with Sean Biggerstaff on other projects and, from their back and forth banter throughout the panel, it was easy to see the two are friends.
Luke Youngblood, being short and having a higher voice at the time, almost missed out on being Lee Jordan because producers didn’t think he looked old enough. Luckily, no one came in to auditions that they preferred, so he got the job.
When asked if each member got the part for which he auditioned, they all answered in the affirmative, except for Biggerstaff: “Well, yes and no. I came in to audition for Percy Weasley…and the casting agent said, ‘You’re not Percy; you’re Oliver Wood.’ And I said, ‘Okay, I don’t know his lines, but that’s fine.’” Biggerstaff also took a moment to credit Alan Rickman with the success of his career. The two didn’t get to work together much on the Potter films, but when Biggerstaff was thirteen, he was in The Winter Guest, which Rickman co-wrote and directed. “He got me my agent and gave the best advice on work and life.”
Rankin hasn’t acted professionally since the Potter films. He loves acting, but lost passion for the art when it became “a job,” something that he needed to support himself and pay the bills took the enjoyment out of the process. He still works for a production company in England, and will always look back at his time on these films with fondness.
Once the panels were over, guests and cast alike were invited to a private party in Diagon Alley for food, drinks, and merchandise. Having experienced the park during the day, this was a true pleasure. No crowds, not claustrophobia, no lines. It was easy to look around with only some two hundred people instead of thousands. All the butterbeer you could stand, buffet, free ice cream, and cast members walking about the park taking pictures, signing autographs, and chatting with fans. It was truly a magical night. What was most enjoyable was the cast members looking about Ollivander's Wand Shop, trying butterbeer ice cream for the first time, or gazing up at the dragon atop Gringotts Bank, breathing fire every ten minutes. Many expressed how they felt they were back on set.
It was a place that transported everyone into a world of magic and wonder, a wonderful time in fiction, film, and everyone’s imagination. Many thanks to everyone at Mugglenet.com who put it on and inviting us to be a part of it!