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Walking through the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition is like a trip down memory lane for James and Oliver Phelps. The twins, who starred in the eight-movie franchise as the prank-loving twins Fred and George Weasley (the troublesome older brothers of Harry’s best pal, Ron), literally grew up on the sets of the Harry Potter films, and find themselves remembering things they’d long forgotten since filming.
One of their most poignant moment on set was in the very last film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part 2, where George sees his twin Fred die at the hands of Death Eaters.
“It wasn’t the best day of filming,” Oliver tells Tyla about the experience. “It was incredibly difficult. I thought it was going to be on a closed set, but it was actually in the Great Hall, and I was just crying in front of everyone.”
However, Oliver, now 35, had no shortage of stellar advice from none other than Julie Walters, who played Weasley matriarch Molly.
“She actually told me a method to help me get into that mindset,” he explains. “She told me to relate it to something that’s happened in real life.
“I put myself in horrible situations and found myself reliving loved ones dying and really horrible stuff just so I could really feel it.
“The make-up lady came up to me with a eucalyptus pen and blew it in my eyes so they were streaming everywhere, it was full on.”
It wasn’t such an intense day on set for James, however, who managed to escape the horrors of acting out his own death by falling asleep.
“It was my easiest day on set,” James jokes. “I literally fell asleep while we were filming that scene. Everyone left me lying there while they went to lunch.”
The pair were infinitely grateful to be cast amongst such an impressive ensemble of actors, and learned their roles by observing stars such as Imelda Staunton – who played the fearsome Mrs Umbridge.
“We loved Imelda,” Oliver says. “She was the loveliest person you could hope to meet on set. But literally, the moment the director yelled action, she’d completely change. I remember when we first filmed with her, and I was just completely horrified!
“Her character was the complete opposite of how she actually is. She was brilliant.”
Another actor that the pair remember fondly is the brilliant Alan Rickman, who sadly passed away in 2016. While Alan played the potions master Snape, known for being cold and spiteful, he was a pleasure to have around on set.
“He was fantastic,” James says. “He was such a funny guy. But he always stayed close to character. It was amazing to learn on the job from all these amazing actors and actresses and seeing how they went about their craft. We learned so much from all of them.”
It’s nice that the twins are still so full of praise for their castmates. Unlike some series, which are better known for feuds and sniping behind the scenes, James and Oliver are still close to everyone they worked with – and are proud to be part of the Potter family.
“We don’t have a WhatsApp group, because filming wrapped before WhatsApp was even a thing, that’s how old we are now,” Oliver laughs. “But we still check in with everybody and keep in touch. It’s like having your mates from school – everyone still speaks to everyone else, we know what’s going on. We’re in contact all the time.”
And despite the door having closed on the Harry Potter film series over a decade ago, James and Oliver are thrilled that people still hold the franchise so dear to their hearts.
“We’re always going to be associated with Harry Potter, which is great,” Oliver says. “Fred and George were good characters to play. It’s so nice that people feel so strongly about the series, all these years later.”
The Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition is open in Covent Garden, featuring a collection of behind-the-scenes photos and London’s only bottled Butterbeer bar. Tickets are available to book at HarryPotteronLocation.co.uk
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