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Brief Encounter... Harry Potter's James Phelps

By • Off-West End

James Phelps is best known for playing Fred Weasley in all eight Harry Potter films. He is making his stage debut in The Boy Who Was Woody Allen, a new play by David Simmons and Geoff Morrow, which opens tonight (6 February 2013).

John O'Leary is an 18 year old 6' 3" blond Catholic boy standing in line to meet his school careers officer. He has absolutely no idea what he would like to do with his life. However, being Catholic, he is allowed at least one epiphany in his life and, luckily, his arrives now. He is going to be Woody Allen!

The show, which runs at the Pleasance Theatre, also features in the cast Carrie Marx, Rhys Owen and Fliss Russell. It runs until 9 February.


You’re best known as Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter films, how did that come about and what is the most important thing you’ve taken from that experience?

I got into the HP films after going to an open audition over 12 years ago. I have had many great moments from doing it. I've taken a lot from it, from knowing how to behave on and off the set, after watching the older actors.

Any Harry Potter anecdotes you can share with us?

We were in Orlando for the opening of the Wizarding World of HP at universal studios, and one evening Oliver (my brother) and Rupert Grint and I went out and ended up in a place called Rising Star (very cool karaoke place), we ended up doing a song and then found out the audience was full of Harry Potter fan site people...we seemed to go down pretty well.

The Boy who Was Woody Allen will be your first appearance on stage, how have you found the transition from screen to stage?

Very interesting and different. When filming normally you rehearse the morning of the shoot for a few hours, then film it, then don't think about it again. But with stage you rehearse, remember it for a few weeks and put it into practice with everything else for the show. Of course, the main difference is that if you mess up filming you cut and retake, however on stage you mess up then you get on with it - I'm praying that doesn't happen!

You’re playing a boy who decides he wants to be Woody Allen, does that mean you’re playing Woody Allen?

In a way; my character is John O'Leary is a catholic boy who decides when he leaves school he wants to become Woody Allen. After some success he learns that everything he knows about his 'source of inspiration' isn't exactly true but he has already taken on Woody’s characteristics and mannerisms, like a 99% version of him. I’ve been watched quite a few Woody Allen films for research:  Annie Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, Bananas, Stardust Memories - not the worst homework I've ever had!

You're singing in this production – how’s that been going?

I am, which has been rather nerve-racking. It's been fun; at first I was worried about murdering the song, then I thought maybe just manslaughter, but now I think it'll be fine.

What's next?

I have really enjoyed this experience and hope to return to the stage again soon, but I would say the next thing is very likely to be film.


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