Chris Rankin Tells How He Came to Be Percy Weasley
By Marie Morreale and Scholastic Student Reporter Lindsay Guastafeste
Chris sat down to talk to Scholastic News Online's Entertainment Reporter Marie Morreale and Student Reporter Lindsay Guastafeste about the differences between he and Percy, and how he got the role as Percy.
Marie and Lindsay: How would you describe Percy and how he's evolved?
Chris: For me, Percy's kind of the odd one out. He's the ugly duckling of the piece, I find. There's nothing wrong with him, but everyone seems to think there is. I mean, he's different, he's a prefect. He's the one that obeys the rules, that doesn't go out trying to slay villains or go out and find stones and mirrors and things like that. I find him a lot of fun. I enjoy the role he plays, because he always sort of pops up at the most inconvenient moments. He's a giggle. As the books go on, his part kind of grows from this slightly annoying person in the background to by the time we get to the third one he's Head Boy, and obviously his presence is felt more. When he's at the Ministry and becomes the Junior Secretary to the Minister of Magic, obviously he's becoming more and more important and more and more annoying, and I love that.
Marie and Lindsay: Tell me about the audition process and how you were chosen.
Chris: It's a very bizarre story, and I still find it quite difficult to believe that it all worked like this. But what happened was, I saw something on BBC television in England, on the children's television they have a news program at half-past five every day. I just happened to be watching itI don't usually. There was this thing that said: 'They're making the Harry Potter films and here's the address to write to if you would like to play any of the parts in it.' They held open casting for all of the UK this was April 2000. I thought, Yeah, I'll write in for that. It might be a bit of fun. They said, 'If you don't hear anything in two weeks then you haven't got a chance because there are millions of children who are going to want to do this.' I sent them a photo of me, a list of all the shows I'd been in at school, local youth theatre, and didn't hear anything. Two weeks went by, nothing, so I gave up. Six months later they rang and said, 'What are you doing tomorrow? Would you like to come for an audition?' I said, "Okay!" They faxed me through a couple of pages of script and I looked at that. I went down the next day and met the casting director and had an audition with her. She said, 'Yeah, okay, do you want to come down and meet the director and the producers in a couple of days at the studio?' So I did. She rang the next day and said, 'You ve got it! We start next week.' It was really surreal. It happened so fast.
Marie and Lindsay: How old were you then?
Chris: I was 16.
Marie and Lindsay: Had you been acting?
Chris: Not professionally. Potter has been my first professional job. I've had jobs other than Potter now, but that was my first professional acting job. It was my first professional job at allI'd never been paid to do anything before.
Marie and Lindsay: What did you send in to them?
Chris: I sent in a letter saying, 'Dear Sir or Madam, I m interested in playing Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films. This is why: I was a prefect at school, I've got ginger hair, I've been in these shows, I've done these plays. Here's a photo of me. Sincerely, Chris Rankin.' It's kind of weird, still!
Marie and Lindsay: So you've spent four years of your life here on Harry Potter. What's that like?
Chris: It's still kind of surreal. I sometimes sit down and think, "This is huge!" When you're making the film it's just work. You don't realize how big it is when you re there doing it. And then when the films come out the worldwide media is standing there going, 'Harry Potter!' It hits home that it's this massive phenomenon really. It's strange; it's gone really quickly as well. Four years have just shot by.
Marie and Lindsay: Do you feel like you've missed out on anything?
Chris: No, no. Nothing I can't do later.
Marie and Lindsay: Obviously you've traveled all over the world. Where have you traveled?
Chris: Just since the films? Actually, not very many places at all. I think Toronto and New York twice now.
Marie and Lindsay: So you haven't experienced the Asian Harry Potter phenomenon?
Chris: No, I'm holding out on that. That's where much of my fan mail comes from and I get slightly daunted. I've had friends go out there who say it's just the biggest thing since sliced bread in Japan.
Marie and Lindsay: What do you and Percy have in common?
Chris: Not that much actually. I'm an only child, so I don't have six other brothers and sisters, thank goodness. As far as the only thing I have in common is that I was a prefect at school and I've got ginger hair and at the time the film came out I was the age Percy was in the first book. Percy's about three or four years older than me, if you go by the books, but with the films I'm about the same age as him. I hope I'm not quite as boring as Percy as well.
Marie and Lindsay: What's your next project?
Chris: I've got a couple of things. Obviously we're starting Harry Potter 4 in April. We start filming for that, and that ll be out 2005. So that's going to be a big project. I've just started my own theatre company as well in England, so that's going quite well. Apart from that I don't have time for much else because Harry Potter is such hard work quite a lot of the time.
Marie and Lindsay: What's your fondest memory of making the Harry Potter movies?
Chris: They're all just great fun actually. We have some good fun. I think the best scene that I've filmed was the one in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when we're all sitting around the table having breakfast. That was just really, really fun working with all the Weasley family. We had a good laugh, and Julie Walters who plays Mrs. Weasley is the funniest person ever. We spent days just giggling. They'd mess up tapes on purpose and just play practical jokes on us. That was fun. I think working with them was sort of the highlight.
Marie and Lindsay: Have you met J.K. Rowling?
Chris: Yeah, I have. Three or four times now. She's quite strange to talk to, actually. She's lovely, but you re talking to her and you can sort of see the cogs going in the brain. You can see her thinking, 'Now what can I use in a character?' It's a bit weird. But she's very intelligent, a very intelligent lady. She won't tell me anything and I keep asking her. Nothing.
Marie and Lindsay: Had you read the Harry Potter books before?
Chris:: Yeah. I think that's the only reason why I applied to do it in the first place is that I was a fan of the books to start with. I wouldn't have done it otherwise.
Marie and Lindsay: Are you enrolled in college?
Chris: Not anymore. I left school when I was 18, but I started doing Harry Potter before then. I was doing my final two years of school and filming at the same time, which was disastrous really. I might go to university in a couple of years, but we'll see how work goes.
Marie and Lindsay: Would you like to work on the stage in the United States?
Chris: Yes! Are you offering me a job? Yeah, I would. I'd love to do Broadway. I'm a big fan of musicals and musical theatre. I love it.
Marie and Lindsay: So you sing?
Chris: Yeah, I do. I did musicals at school.
Marie and Lindsay: Is there a musical on or that has been on Broadway that you d like to do?
Chris: When I was 16, just before I got the part in Harry Potter I did Jesus Christ Superstar at my school and played Jesus in that. I'd love to do that professionally. There's so much that I'd like to do. The list goes on and on. Les MiserablesI'd like to do that professionally. Some of the more obscure stuff as well. There s a fantastic show called Sideshow that was on Broadway four years ago. I believe that would be really good stuff to do. I like quite random off the wall stuff really.
Marie and Lindsay: Are you friendly with the cast members?
Chris: Yeah, yeah. We all get on. We spend so much time together, because the sort of typical day for one of the big scenes, like a Great Hall scene, usually I have to get up at about 6 in the morning and we're at the studios at 7, in hair and makeup at 8, on set at 9. With a few breaks here and there we work until 5 or 6 o'clock at night. It's kind of busy, and we do spend a lot of time together when we're doing it, so we do get on really, really well.
Marie and Lindsay: If Harry Potter became a play, would you like to be Percy or someone else?
Chris: A play? That would be interesting. But how would you do Quidditch matches on stage? It could get messy. I think I'd stick with Percy. The Harry Potter musical would be curious. I think I would. My other favorite character is Tom Riddle, so that could be fun. That's a good question actually. I'd never thought of that.
Marie and Lindsay: Do you have any interest in writing your own books?
Chris: I did when I was younger. I used to write little stories all the time. They were dreadful. Really dreadful. Very silly things like pirate attacks on islandsboy things. Proper adventure stories. Yeah, I'd give it a go, I think. I think I'd write plays more than books. That's my thing. Theatre is what I like doing, so I'd probably write plays and scripts. I'd give one a go maybe one day.
Marie and Lindsay: This question is for MATH magazine: Do you ever go out to tan in the sun? If you do, are you familiar with the SPF number on the lotion? What do you use?
Chris: I'm ginger-haired and fair-skinned, so I have to go out in 30 all the time. That thick skin cream is ridiculous. We just moved houses and I was looking at some photo albums that I've since dug out; there's a fantastic one of me on holiday a couple of years ago where I'd fallen asleep on the beach in the sun. So I've got these sort of wonderful white eyes where I had my sunglasses on and seriously bright red face. It's awful. Horrible! No, if I do, I have to go out with full proper skin cream and everything and a hat and sunglasses. Mind you, I live in England, so I don't have to do that too often.
Marie and Lindsay: When you were a kid, what was your favorite book?
Chris: I used to love the Enid Blyton books. They were lovely. Proper, English, jolly old 40s. Yeah, there's a fantastic series in the UK which they just stopped printing actually called Jennings. It's a bit like Harry Potter without the magic. It's a public school boy storybook thing that's hilarious. One of my favorite books was Where the Wild Things Are. It's brilliant. And Dogger.
Marie and Lindsay: What have you read recently?
Chris: A book that I read recently that I was recommended to read, is aimed for 13-to 14-year-olds, and I had such a hard time trying to get a hold of it. It's called Children of the Dust. It's about nuclear fallout and the effects on the three generations of the same family. It's stunningan absolutely brilliant read. I think it's by Louise Lawrence. I really enjoyed it. It starts in modern day, and it's in three parts. The first part is about a girl called Sarah and her family, and she doesn't survive but her sister does. It's quite disturbing in parts because her sister, who is about 11 or 12, and obviously for reasons of creating, ends up with this guy and they have to repopulate the UK. In the first part Sarah's dad's away when the bomb explodes, so he's not there, so he ends up with another woman and they have a child. Then his story comes and it all sort of mingles in together. It's quite weird. And I've been reading a lot of Stephen King recently as well actually. I'm quite into that.
Marie and Lindsay: What are your favorite places and times to read?
Chris: I usually read on holiday actually and sit on the beach and read.
Marie and Lindsay: Why would you tell kids that it s important to read?
Chris: It enhances imagination, and usually there's less violence in books. I think there's no end to pleasure in books, I find. That may just be the way I've been brought up. I've always read books and always been read to and I find it very easy to get completely involved into a book and just disappear into a completely different fantasy world of my own, and I love it. I think you can t beat a book, personally.
Marie and Lindsay: Tell us a little bit about your theatre group.
Chris: Well, we've only been running about three months, but it's been set up by myself and a director I worked with on a play last year. We work very well together we're both a bit wacky when it comes to stage productions. We sort of have very bizarre ideas. But it s a professional company, and at the moment we're working on a production of a play called Hedda Gabler, which is sort of heavy European drama and not particularly exciting. We're aiming to do quite a lot with schools in the area and get them involved. The idea is to do three plays a year. The idea is that we'll cast once a year for a company and from that company we'll cast each show from the same set of people. A new set of people each year. This year we re only doing two plays. We're doing Hedda Gabler in April and we're doing Salome by Oscar Wilde in September and October.
Marie and Lindsay: How are you going to split time between your theatre group and Harry Potter?
Chris: That has yet to be seen. I've got an understudy and I am producing it, so I don't necessarily have to be in it at all. It's just something that I've always wanted to do.