Our countdown continues toward the July 17 release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and today our Denise Martin catches up with a newcomer to Hogwarts.
It was months between Jessie Cave’s first open call audition and finding out that the 22-year-old Londoner had nabbed the part of Lavender Brown, Hermione’s smitten roommate-turned-romantic competition in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” “It was quite surreal,” Cave said in an interview. “Throughout the process I never thought I had the part, the chances were so slim.”
Well, not so slim: Cave appeared in the CBBC drama “Summerhill” and is currently starring on the West End stage in the critically acclaimed revival of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia.”
While waiting to see the finished film herself, Cave talked to Hero Complex about scaring Rupert Grint, who plays Lavender’s sweetheart Ron, with (a perhaps all-too-realistic?) audition, the actors’ first kiss, and how Lavender puts up a good fight for Ron’s heart.
DM: For your final audition, what scene did you get to act out with Rupert?
JC: We actually had to improvise for a good 15 or 20 minutes, which is very scary. It’s a really long time. The director, David Yates, was there and he was just like, “Hi. Right. Here’s a plate of biscuits, Jessie. It’s a lovely plate of chocolate biscuits and I want you to do whatever you want with these biscuits.’ Rupert was in the room, sitting on the sofa, and I just thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do with this plate of biscuits?’
DM: What did you end up doing?
JC: I thought, ‘I’m just going to go for it.’ And I think Rupert was a bit scared, really. The biscuits were past the sofa, away from me so I kind of just tangled myself around Rupert and just made it really obvious that I didn’t really care about the biscuits. I just wanted to be near him. I think he was quite scared.
DM: Awww, he was probably acting, too. Right?
JC: No, he was actually scared [laughs]. I think he’s easily scared though, bless him. He was so lovely and we really got on and made each other laugh, and that helped.
DM: Was he less scared once you started filming?
JC: He was very easygoing and very laid-back. He didn’t at all have any kind of ego, he was just a nice guy and very normal. It was easy to become friends with him, which I didn’t expect to be honest. I’ve watched [the ‘Harry Potter’ stars] since I was young and, you know, I didn’t think they’d be as normal as they are. It’s quite weird.
DM: Do you remember what your first day on set was like?
JC: It’s funny, I was filming for six months, but I remember my third day was the big kissing scene. I remember thinking, ‘Why are they doing this so early?’ It helped actually because the nerves kind of added to the scene. There were so many extras, like 70 other people in the room, it could have gone so wrong. The first day was kind of building up to the kissing scene, so it was immediately going into the deep end.
DM: If I remember correctly, Lavender’s the aggressor in the relationship, right?
JC: Ha! Yes, she is incredibly dominating of Ron. She just wants to be around him all the time and she’s the one who initiates everything. She’s one of those girls that’s very pretty and very obvious, she’s just not really aware of how she’s being perceived by anyone else. And I think that’s really sweet in a way because she doesn’t perceive barriers very well [laughs]. She treads all over them. It’s why she ruffles Hermione’s feathers so much.
DM: She does put up a good fight.
JC: She’s almost the catalyst in setting up Hermione and Ron in the final chapter of the saga really. Without Lavender, they wouldn’t have been forced together, to acknowledge their feelings so abruptly because she definitely caused that.
DM: How did it feel playing someone who everyone will know doesn’t stand a chance?
JC: Well, she does really! She does quite well. She does go out with him and does get her claws into him for awhile. Not claws — she’s lovely. She does get her way for a tiny bit, but unfortunately, it doesn’t end up her way.
DM: How is Lavender introduced?
JC: She’s in the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop and she’s kind of ogling Ron. She’s been going to school with them for years, but it’s not that she’s making her interests known.
DM: Were you already a ‘Harry Potter’ fan when you auditioned for the part?
JC: Oh, yes! I’m one of five in my family and we’ve all gone through the books at different paces. I read ‘Half-Blood Prince’ before I knew anything about the auditions. So to have already read the character was so great. Also, my little brothers and sisters are so excited, and proud. It’s impacted their lives in a really nice way. So I’m really grateful for it.
DM: Did any of them get to go with you to the set?
JC: I brought them all on set but my little sister, she’s 11, she was the one who was in awe of everything. Jim Broadbent was there, and Daniel Radcliffe. I brought her into the Potions classroom and I signaled Daniel to wave at her without her seeing. And then Daniel waved and she thought he had done that for no reason and she was in seventh heaven. She was absolutely star-struck. She almost fainted when she saw Emma [Watson] in the corridor. It is so bizarre to actually meet them because, you know, they’re on posters everywhere. It’s so weird. My sister’s got sticker books of them and then to actually meet them? There’s actually a new sticker book with me in it, so she’s got stickers of me now. It’s so sweet. I can’t believe I’m actually a sticker.
DM: What’s been the best perk that comes with being in a ‘Harry Potter’ movie?
JC: Just to be there every day was so brilliant. I’m so happy with it. I had a few scenes with Michael Gambon, and in the hospital scene, I met all of British acting royalty. I was so scared I didn’t really speak. To be in the room with them is quite overwhelming. Someone behind me said, ‘You’re standing next to three Oscars and a BAFTA,‘ or something. Yeah, that made it much easier for me [laughs]. That was the best thing.
— Denise Martin
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Photo credit: Warner Bros.