Exclusive Interview: Scarlett Byrne Talks All Things Harry Potter
This past weekend at LeakyCon Dallas, I had the honor to sit down and chat with Harry Potter actress Scarlett Byrne. Joining the franchise in 2009, Byrne portrayed bad-girl Slytherin Pansy Parkinson in The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows. Since her time on Harry Potter, she appeared on Falling Skies and The Vampire Diaries, and is currently involved with a project she can’t yet talk about.
Alyssa Tieman: Were you a fan of Harry Potter before joining the franchise?
Scarlett Byrne: Yes, absolutely. I was. I really was. It would just be an annual event where every time Harry Potter would come out around Christmas time, I’d go with my family, and then I’d go a second time and see it with all my friends. For me and my generation, it was just embedded in my childhood, and I was fortunate to have grown up around the movies and books and these wonderful characters.
AT: Do you have a favorite book? And then movie?
SB: Oh, I do. I’m currently rereading the whole series, so I’m halfway through the fifth. But I have to say, my favorite book is Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s also my favorite movie. Aside from the last three, ‘cause I feel like I’m biased and I have to say those. But they also feel just more grown up and… Yeah, no. But definitely Prisoner of Azkaban.
AT: That one’s my favorite as well.
SB: Yeah, it really is… Sirius Black is, I think, my favorite character. And I love the relationship between him and Harry.
AT: So talk a bit about the audition process, and then what it was like joining something as big as Harry Potter.
SB: Yeah, so I had previously auditioned for the role of Luna Lovegood. And this was a year before I was brought in for Pansy. That’s when I got to meet Fiona Weir and her team. And then, obviously, didn’t hear anything. And that movie came out. Again, I went with all my friends and family and I saw it. The following summer, at the beginning of the summer. Actually, it must’ve been late spring. I went in and auditioned; I got called in for the role of Pansy. So I did the audition. Again, something as big as Harry Potter, you just don’t really think it’s going to happen. Also at that time, at the age I was, I didn’t really think that acting was going to be something I would do as a career. I just really loved it. I’d had a background in dancing, acting, musical theatre. I just thought, “Wow, this is really fun.”
So I went and I did the first one, then I got called in to see Fiona Weird again and David Yates, the director of Half-Blood Prince, was also in the room, too. And so he gave me some points, some things to change in the scene. Then I didn’t hear anything for a little while. A few weeks, my mom got a call from my agent at the time, because I was only 16, and they said, “We’d love to have Scarlett come in and read… for the third audition for Pansy.” And mum was like, “Oh, great. Yeah. Where are you going?” And they say, “To Leavesden.” I was like, “Oh, wow.” That’s where they shot all the films.
So I drove down with my mum. And I thought it would be with two other girls, and I got there and they said, “Oh, no, you’re the only girl.” So immediately I was like, [gasps] “Oh my goodness.” I was a bit nervous. But again, I just thought, you know, just here to have a good time. I didn’t really think too much about it. They said, “We’re going to walk you down to come and meet Tom.” And I was like, “All right, okay.” As soon as I met Tom, the two of us just got on really well. He was just really wonderful. So lovely. Him, myself, and my mum ended up having lunch together before the audition. After that, I just wasn’t really nervous. He made me feel really comfortable.
We went onto set, and it was a closed set with Tom and I doing the scene from the—the train scene. David Yates was there. Fiona Weird was there, again, with a couple camera crew. And we just did it and I felt like it went really well. When we finished, I said “bye” and left and didn’t really think too much about it, ‘cause I thought, “Oh, this isn’t really going to happen.” Again, I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. I thought, “Oh, no, this is definitely… Someone else has got it.” And then, yeah, I ended up finding out I got it; I was actually on holiday. I was very happy. Honestly, I think it was a month later when we got called in for the read through, and J.K. Rowling was there, the whole cast was there. They had set it up in the Great Hall, so it was really special, and a really amazing moment. My mum came to that, too. She was just so excited.
Then, yeah, after that, I went and got fitted for my Hogwarts uniform. That’s when it felt really real, when you go for the fitting. After that, my first few days on set were just so much fun. And I’ve said this so many times before, I feel really lucky that people who… all the people from the cast and crew who were working on the Potter series, they were all just so wonderful. It really just felt like a big family. For me, at my age, ‘cause I’d just turned 17 then, it really did feel like you were going to a new school. Luckily, I had Anna and a couple other girls who were joining for the first time. You didn’t just feel like the only new girl. There were a bunch of us coming at the same time. And everyone was just so wonderful. It just really was a lovely experience.
AT: You had lunch with Tom and got to know him and did the readings, so coming in on your first day, it probably helped a little bit.
SB: It did, because we had already somewhat worked together. He, like I said, was so lovely. So that put me at ease and thinking, “Okay. Well, if he’s nice, then hopefully everyone else will be nice.” And everyone was really lovely. It was just really fun. It was just great.
AT: Were there any characters or actors you wished you had been able shared a scene with?
SB: Definitely Gary Oldman. I’m a huge Gary Oldman fan. And like I said, Sirius Black is one of my favorite characters. I also really love Helena Bonham Carter. Yeah, I had a scene with Maggie Smith, when she sent me to the dungeon, and that was really fun. I always just feel really lucky to have been in that environment and to have been around so many wonderful, talented people. And that’s really where I learned a lot about how a production like that runs, what it’s like to be on a set. And then as soon as I started working on films, I was like, “Okay, this is what I want to do.”
AT: Was there anything else you learned from Harry Potter? Life lesson or acting? The whole process?
SB: I think in regards to acting, always be prepared. That’s like the biggest thing. Be kind to people. Yeah, and to have a good time while you’re being professional. Because, again, it’s a really fun industry when you’re working. And if you can be on a set and be surrounded by lovely people like we all were, then it really does make such a huge difference.
AT: Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes moment? That you can share. That won’t get anyone in trouble.
SB: [laughs] It’s just like a funny little thing. I remember being on set for the first time, I was really nervous. And I remember going on. I assumed because it was a train scene—and again I had never been on a set before—I thought that we were going to be at a train station, on a real train. You know, I didn’t really think too much about it. And then i got to Leavesden and we had got onto a stage and it was just a carriage of part of the train. I thought, “Oh, okay. So how are they going to make this move? Maybe we’ll just have to act like we’re moving. Like we’re on a train.” It was funny. As I sat down—David Yates had told us how he wanted the scene to go—and then I look outside the window and I see one man on one corner of the carriage. On all corners of the carriage there are people sitting on these bars. As we do the scene, they jump, bouncing up and down on these huge poles, and that was making the train move.
AT: Movie magic.
SB: Movie magic.
AT: Do you have anything else you’d like to add? Or say to the fans? Advice? Anything? Favorite pie?
SB: [laughs] Favorite pie. Oh, yay. I think for me, I always get asked from a lot of people, usually it’s about starting out. What advice would I give to young boys and girls who want to get involved in the industry somehow. If they love acting, what to do. And I think, if you can get involved in theatre, outside of school on weeks, or be in a play that’s happening in your school. There are so many platforms now such as Youtube and things like that you can get involved in. For me, I think you really have to love it. And if you can surround yourself with good people who love and support you, because it’s a very difficult industry. Aside from that, having something else that you really love. Because most times when it’s really difficult, it’s important to have something else you can focus on.