Something strange has been happening in Matthew Lewis’s life of late. Despite starring in all eight Harry Potter films as shy and clumsy Neville Longbottom, he’s getting more of a reaction on the street now, almost three years after the final movie was released.
“The thing my friends and family, and myself, can’t seem to fathom is the fact it’s got worse,” says Lewis, who’s calling from sunny South Africa where he’s filming his latest project. “It’s not a bad thing, but more people recognise me now than they ever did when I was making the films.”
Not least the female contingent who waited en mass to catch a glimpse of the newly appointed heart-throb when he made his West End debut in Our Boys in late 2012.
His latest role should go down well with his army of ardent fans, as he plays ammunition technician Corporal Gordon House in the comedy-drama Bluestone 42.
The series follows a fictional bomb disposal detachment in Afghanistan and was a critical success when it first aired in early 2013.
“I watched the first series and remember thinking that I’d love to be part of a show like that. It’s a comedy and aims to make people laugh but it’s not trivialised,” says Lewis, who made his first appearance in the Christmas special and cements his character in the new six-part series.
Cheeky chappy Gordon, nicknamed Tower Block, was brought in to replace Corporal Millsy (Gary Carr) as number two to Captain Medhurst (Oliver Chris).
“He’s the best of the best and came top in all his classes, but when he arrived in Afghanistan he was very green and thought he knew a lot more than he actually did,” explains Lewis, who admits his alter-ego “had a bit of a chip on his shoulder” at first. He didn’t get on with Medhurst initially, there was a bit of friction between them. Gordon’s a lad and loves getting stuck in with the banter - especially giving Medhurst stick for being a posh public schoolboy, but then he did a lot of growing up in that half-hour special.”
The actors’ relationship off screen couldn’t be more different, and Lewis credits the whole cast and crew for making him feel welcome. “I arrived at the read-through, and obviously it’s quite daunting joining a show, but everyone was so fantastic taking me under their wing, I felt part of the team early on.”
And there’s been plenty of time for fun in the sunny location, which he describes as “stunning”.
“We’re laughing and joking on set because we’re making a comedy, but when we’re not working everyone’s spending time together and it’s great.”
In the first week, he and four others entered a local 10k run in South Africa. “We all did pretty well,” says Lewis, who completed the Great North Run last September and describes himself as “pretty sporty”.
But he’s far from holier than thou, he insists.
“There are a fair few bars in the town we’ve been staying in. We’ve tried to drink like squaddies and done a pretty good job of it - but of course been very professional on school nights,” he adds, laughing.
Like his character, Lewis is a proud Yorkshireman and still counts Leeds as home.
“Yeah I’m still up there,” he says. “All my friends are there and they’re the ones who keep me grounded. When you’re making movies like Potter, you can lose yourself in the glamour of making a big Hollywood film. To come away from that and be normal and go to the pub and watch football, that’s what I really enjoy.”
Comedy has always been an important part of his life and he recalls how his brothers introduced him to the likes of Alan Partridge, Fawlty Towers, Bottom and Blackadder.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of these guys [who starred in the above shows] - Robbie Coltrane, Rik Mayall - and to be part of a BBC comedy like this is great,” he says.
It’s also a break from the stage, which he felt he needed after the 12-week Our Boys run.
“You only work three or four hours in the evening but your day’s taken up focused on that, and it can become quite a chore in the later runs to get through stuff,” Lewis says candidly.
Bluestone 42, BBC 3, Thursday 10pm