Two years after the final Harry Potter film, actor Matthew Lewis returns to the silver screen in british heist thriller ‘The Rise’, which was shot here in Leeds and hits cinemas on September 20. Juliette Bains reports.
Stepping out from beneath the Harry Potter shadow takes guts.
But it’s something Matthew Lewis is keen to do.
Since the Horsforth-born actor played Neville Longbottom in the eight Harry Potter films, he’s been in television shows, the West End, a music video and theatre.
His first role post-Potter saw him play Lester Cole in Agatha Christie’s ‘Verdict’.
“I guess I wanted to prove that I could do something after Potter,” he explains.
“When you come out of a film like that you worry if you are going to work again.
“You have to shake that off and get the monkey off your back.
“I had never done theatre before and coming out of a big film, I wanted to go back to basics and see how it goes.
“I was largely terrible. We didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time and I’d done nothing like it before, so we had some bad reviews.
“But it was good for me. I picked up the basics and by the end I figured out what theatre was about.
“Jumping in the deep end like that was a stupid thing to do but I really enjoyed it.
“ I’m very appreciative that they gave me that opportunity.
“Even though it was difficult at first I knew I had to knuckle down and I came out of that with a renewed confidence.”
Just after ‘Verdict’, the final Harry Potter film – part two of the Deathly Hallows – was released in 2011 and Matthew travelled the world for the premieres.
“There was a lot of hoo-haa and focus on myself which I had never had before,” he said.
“I remember being quite shocked at people scrutinising me more because I had a bigger role in that movie and had changed so much from the films. But I never saw that in myself.”
After the media frenzy died down, Matthew returned to his hometown of Leeds before appearing in hit television series ‘The Syndicate’, penned by Yorkshire writer Kay Mellor.
Mellor gave Matt, now 24, his first major TV debut in 1995 with ‘Some Kind of Life’ and was quick to snap him up again.
And she was right to do so, as his performance earned him a TV Choice Award nomination for best actor.
“It was great to be filming because a lot of it was in Leeds, so I could just roll out of my bed and be at work.
“I had one scene with my brother Anthony in it too.
“His trailer was next to mine and it was fun to be with him on set.”
The 24-year-old made his West End debut last year playing a soldier in ‘Our Boys’ by Jonathan Lewis and now has the confidence to return to film.
“When I was approached with the script I thought it was brilliant.
“It is hard to explain the intelligence of it without giving away the ending.
“I really loved it. It was clever and different and very much something I wanted to be a part of.”
British heist thriller ‘The Rise’ was based on director Rowan Athale’s experiences growing up.
Set on a council estate, it tells the story of four mates whose friendship sees them plan a complicated heist.
Matthew, who plays Dodd, stars alongside Timothy Spall, ‘Misfits’ actor Iwan Rheon and ‘Shameless’ actor Gerard Kearns.
And yet again, the job saw Matthew working in his hometown of Leeds, with filming in Horsforth, East End Park, Harehills and Armley.
“At one point we were filming down the road from my house.
“You can tell it’s Leeds from the film but it never says that – it’s ambiguous.”
The film was released in America over the summer under the title ‘Wasteland’ and, according to Matthew, has gone down well with audiences.
He adds: “The character of Dodd was really fun for me to play.
“He is the biggest of all of his mates and very loyal.
“He’s on the front line but isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
“It was so different to Neville. Neville isn’t something I wanted to dwell on and I’m moving away from it now.
“But at the same time I’m not going to begrudge it because that is what made me and it’s where I came from.
“There are opportunities that I’ve got now that I wouldn’t have got without it.
“I wouldn’t ever shy away from talking about it.”
His latest role saw Matt tackle complicated stunts in his very own fight scene.
“We choreographed the fight but I slipped over and kneed the stunt guy in the balls and punched him in the nose twice,” he laughs.
“He was absolutely fine though!”
As Matt chuckles about the mishap during his latest film shoot, Neville Longbottom feels a million miles away.
The charming young actor looks at ease in the Roundhay Fox pub as he chats about ‘The Rise’ and it’s clear he feels at home in Leeds.
Still a Leeds resident, Matt doesn’t easily forget where he’s come from.
He adds: “Working in Leeds is brilliant for me.
“I am not a keen traveller in any way.
“I’ve been around the world with my job and been to many wonderful places but I always want to come home.
“So for me, to be able to do a job that I love in the city that I love really is a dream come true.”
‘The Rise’ is in cinemas from Friday, September 20 and on DVD from September 30.
A CAREER PATH TO HARRY POTTER VIA HEARTBEAT
Matthew Lewis has been acting since the age of five.
His first television performance was in 1995 in ‘Some Kind of Life’.
He also had minor roles in ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’ in 1996, ‘Where the Heart is’ in 1997 and ‘Heartbeat’ in 1998.
It was 2001 when he shot to fame in the first Harry Potter film – ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’.
This was followed by ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ in 2002, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ in 2004, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2005, ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ in 2007, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ in 2009, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ in 2010 and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2’ in 2011.
In 2011 he was in Agatha Christie’s ‘Verdict’ and made his West End debut in 2012 playing Mick in ‘Our Boys’ by Jonathan Lewis.
Matt played Jamie Bradley in television series ‘The Syndicate’ in 2012 and appeared in the Band of Buriers music video called ‘Filth’ in the same year. This year he is also in a film called ‘The Sweet Shop’.