Exclusive Interview: Afshan Azad Was the Biggest Fan Before Joining Harry Potter
It’s not every day that casting agents show up and audition everyone in your school, but for Afshan Azad, that moment would change her life. Joining the cast in 2005 for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Azad played Padma Patil, twin sister of Parvati Patil and Ron’s date to the Yule Ball. During LeakyCon 2019, I sat down with Azad to talk about her time on Harry Potter.
Alyssa Tieman: How was the audition process? You said in your panel that they auditioned the entire school. Was that really intimidating?
Afshan Azad: Afterwards, I found out that 7,000-8,000 people auditioned for my role all across the U.K. So, I was 15 at the time, and casting agents came to all the schools in England, Scotland, Wales, auditioning for the roles of the Patil twins. Now, my whole school auditioned even though they weren’t Indian. They all just sort of went in as a joke. It was the biggest thing to happen to the school. I went in not thinking that I would ever get chosen. And then, like ten auditions later, I got chosen. On my 16th birthday, they gave me a call to say I’d got the role. Which was incredible. Best birthday present ever.
Afterwards, I kind of thought what a big deal it was. A lot of new characters were getting added to the fourth film. I couldn’t tell anyone for ages after I’d gotten the role. So when people were going on at school like, “No one got the role,” I was like, “Mmm.” I really wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. Then everyone found out, and it was a great feeling.
AT: How was it being a part of something as massive as Harry Potter?
AA: I mentioned before, I was a huge Potter geek. Huge for the books. I’d read them religiously the minute they came out. So I knew about the universe, about the Potter-world as they call it. And so when I got the role, it didn’t dawn on me right away that I was part of the universe, the world. The first day that I went… went for a read through and met the whole cast, I was calling them by their character names, which I know now is like the most cringiest thing I could’ve done. I was like, “Hi, Harry.” And he was like, “Hi, I’m Daniel Radcliffe.” I was like, “I know who you are.”
I think when I met everyone, I realized, “Oh my god. I’m part of something big.” Because, you know, around the table there was Harry, Hermione, and Ron, to me, in my head, but now, obviously, looking back… whole different time. Even being here today, it just goes to show how big Harry Potter is and how loved it is around the world. And 10 years later, we’re still here. So to be a part of it is just overwhelming and the most incredible feeling.
AT: What is your favorite book, and then what was your favorite movie?
AA: My favorite book was Goblet of Fire, because so much happened. It’s the biggest book. There’s so much in there. And I think it was the transition between Harry being a boy… and growing up. In that book, all the characters, they kind of grew up. Individually. And also, so much happened. Film-wise, I always toy with my favorite film. Sometimes it’s this film, sometimes it’s not. But yeah, I think Half-Blood Prince. I just love… David Yates kind of just took over at that point and it was just…. to watch it, was just a beautiful film. Yeah, I think Half-Blood Prince is my favorite.
AT: Yeah, that one grew on me. It wasn’t my favorite book.
AA: Yeah. It wasn’t at first.
AT: The movie did such a good job at condensing so much.
AA: Good job. Yeah, condensing so much together. And it was kind of the beginning of the end. That was the first film I was kind of excited for the next one.
AT: What was your favorite location or set piece you got to work on?
AA: My favorite set was the Yule Ball set. The Great Hall got transformed into this magical, beautiful ball scene. Location-wise, we did go to Scotland. We went to Oxford for the scene where McGonagall teaches us dance lessons for the ball. Just having all the cast members in a hotel together away from set, you know, for the first time—we were 18 at the time. So, just loads of us would go bowling. We went to watch Dodgeball the movie in the cinema. It was like a sleepover with your best friends. So yeah, that was fun. But definitely the Yule Ball scene. The set was incredible for me.
AT: Last year, Devon Murray was talking about how you guys were just kind of allowed free reign when doing the Yule Ball scene at a certain point. Now you can do this. You were raising Flitwick up.
AA: Yeah. Obviously, Padma and Parvati don’t dance necessarily, because Ron doesn’t dance with me. However, Mike Newell was like, ‘cause there was a big mosh pit and everyone was dancing. We actually got changed and were actually allowed to go into the mosh pit. So if you’re a true fan and you watch the films and slow it down, you’ll actually see me and Shefali [Chowdhury] actually in the mosh pit. And we just went mental in there. It was crazy. We did, Devon’s right, we just had free reign to kinda do whatever we wanted. It was different from the usual, in the Great Hall or in class or whatever. It was the funnest scene ever.
AT: Were there any other behind-the-scene moments you think of as your favorite? Besides the big sleepover and learning how to dance?
AA: Yeah, so dance lessons. I don’t know why I was taught dance lessons when I didn’t dance whatsoever. Everyone had to dance and learn to waltz. And also, we had to learn our Hogwarts theme song. The “Hoggy Hoggy Howarts.” We had to learn that religiously. I think, if I put my mind to it, I might actually be remember it, but I’m not sure. But we got scripts and song lessons, singing lessons, dance lessons, wand lessons during the battle. So, yeah, there were lots of lessons behind the scenes that we had to take.
But dance lessons were hilarious. ‘Cause you’d just look around and in their free time, everyone was just really seriously learning their dance lessons. And I learned mine, but I didn’t get to dance. But I got to dance with a Durmstrang in the end, so… good going for me.
AT: Was there anything you learned being on the set? Either from an actor your own age or one of your older cast-mates?
AA: I don’t think I learned anything from the actors, as such. But because it was my first ever acting gig, like, I’d never acted or been on a set, whatsoever, before that. I learned a lot about the film industry and the behind-the-scene, camera, production, hair and make-up, like everything… I kind of picked up a lot from them. A lot of my make-up skills I have to owe to the make-up team. They would literally transform me and Shefali. We were always the first ones in and the last ones out. Because we had to look identical. And obviously, in real life, we didn’t.
So, there were a lot of things they did. Shefali had a wig. I had hair past my bum, real hair. And Shefali had to wear a wig. And then she had some beauty spots that they painted on me. We would literally be in there for hours matching certain things to make us look something like sisters. So yeah, I learned a lot from that. And just kind of what to be on a film set. That in itself, everyday is something to learn. And I think I took away a lot of things, a lot of love for being on a film set.
AT: Do you want to talk a little bit about your Youtube channel?
AA: Yeah, my friends and family have been—and the fans—have been telling me for years to open a Youtube channel. Obviously, I’ve got an Instagram channel and I post here and there, whatever. But the fans have been like, “We want you on Youtube. We wanna know how you do your make-up. We wanna know what you do during the day.” Like, obviously, coming to conventions, I’m filming. I’m vlogging this, as well, this convention today. ‘Cause it’s a great insight. I mean, a lot of people back in the U.K., people who can’t necessarily travel to the conventions, I wanna show them just a snippet of what happens. A lot of people ask me, “It’s been 10 years, why are you still going to these conventions?” I’m like, “Yeah.” And then when I show them the footage, they’re like, “Oh, wow.” I want to show people that.
Of course, I give a lot of beauty advice and tutorials. And just me in general. Q&As. So yeah, follow me, subscribe, like. All my details are on my Instagram as well. I’ve opened a Youtube channel, which, slowly but surely, I’m gonna get the hang of. I’m super lazy, so I’m gonna have to have the time to actually do the videos. But I should get around to doing it soon.
AT: Is there anything else you’d like to add? To the anyone? Life lessons? Favorite kind of pie?
AA: [laughs] I was just a lucky girl who was in the right place at the right time at the right audition. And I just never thought that this would be me, my life. So if there’s anyone out there who has an audition, upcoming audition, just go for it. Even if you don’t think you’ll get the role. Go for it. ‘Cause look at me. I am here to tell you that I had no acting ability, no dream, no desire to be in film, let alone act. So, if you’re out there and there’s an audition, I’d say definitely go for it. And I stayed in school, as well. So, you can do both.