The countdown continues toward the July 15 release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and this morning our Jevon Phillips talks to Mark Williams, who portrays Arthur Weasley. The actor noted that in J.K. Rowling’s books, his character was the only “normal” father figure in the whole series.
JP: For Harry Potter, did you read any of the novels before you were cast?
MW: Yeah! I read them before I was cast and was, kind of embarrassingly, a fan, a bit. I found my agent and said ‘Is anybody gonna read these as talking books because I’d like to put my name up for it.’ I knew who Arthur Weasley was, and I know who I am and I knew I could do it. I’ve been in “101 Dalmatians” and “The Borrowers” and “Shakespeare in Love” and stuff … and I felt like I had a connection.
JP: So, how much freedom did you get to shape Arthur Weasley to your liking?
MW: Well, in the book he’s kind of balding and said to Chris [Columbus] ‘Well, do you want me to shave my head or something’ and he said ‘No! No, don’t do that!’ He looked at me and said ‘Don’t take it so literally.’ J.K. Rowling has been very good about that. She’s allowed the films to develop sort of in parallel to the books, but she hasn’t changed the sort of characterization of the books either … And with “Deathly Hallows,” I think for the first time, as the books got bigger, Steve Kloves’ job got harder and harder. But having two parts to the last book is good. I’m a big champion of it, and not just because I’m in them. She [J.K. Rowling] has such a mathematical brain, or better put, a musical brain and all the themes and the melodies were resolved in the last book.
JP: Arthur Weasley’s role has increased through the series — how did you approach him having a more active role?
MW: I didn’t know, but I believe that she has said that he’s the only functional father left. Actually, though, I think he’s the only functional father. Lucius isn’t a functional father. “Proto” fathers Sirius and Dumbledore are dead, and there’s no nice way to put that, so he’s the only good image of a father really. But you should ask her about that, and believe me when we finish I will ask her.
JP: So, you, Mark, as an actor, have kind of been a father figure to the kids on the set …
MW: Well, not really now, they’ve all grown up!
JP: Yeah, you’re right, they’re not anymore, but did you take on a paternal role set?
MW: Well, yeah, but you gotta be careful you know? They’re bored of it now, but there was a time when we first started where, particularly after lunch, Dan [Radcliffe] and Rupert [Grint] could just have this giggle hour. It just reminded me of being back in school. you know, that time around 2 or 3 o’clock, you just couldn’t say anything serious. But, I have to say that they show remarkable forbearance … They must be so bored with talking to middle-aged actors throughout their childhood. But, the whole setup has been great for that. It’s like ‘Don’t be bringing your ego in here cause they’re just 8-year-old actors.’
JP: So, the movies still have the whimsy, but they’re getting a little darker it seems. How have you and your character dealt with that?
MW: Well, it was always dark … John Williams picked it up perfectly, I mean with music being 30% of the film .. I mean, you know, [Potter’s] parents were killed. There’s just these great Dickensian [themes]. I’ve never said that before and I kind of wished I hadn’t — but these great big scenes that you can play on the cello, you know what I mean. As time’s gone on, I’ve just been more and more impressed about [Rowling’s] sense of geography and knowing where she’s going. There’s a big map in there and I’ve never felt that any of the concerns or themes or problems have been swept under the carpet.
What’s nice is that going into the last two films, thinking that this is a great pleasure to play this character .. and it’s great that when we finish, we’re gonna be finished. Not gonna be left hanging.
JP: With that impending end approaching and the actors growing up in front of you — from the beginning to the end — how has the mood on the set changed?
MW: Things on the set haven’t changed. Really. The mood of the story has, but the way that the machine functions hasn’t. It’s always been a great pleasure to be on that set. And in fact, at one point … Do you know “Apocalypse Now”? The part where the captain stands up and says “Some day, this war will be over!” I did that and I said “Some day, this film will be over.” Only a few of us laughed.
JP: Is there anything that Arthur Weasley has done in the books that you wish he had done in the film?
MW: Yes! Well, I talked about this with Christopher Columbus and he was very clear that this was not gonna happen. But when we first see Arthur Weasley, he arrives home and a load of gnomes is eating in his garden and he kind of zaps them … I so wish I could’ve done that.
JP: But Arthur Weasley’s pretty good with his wand, right?
MW: You know, I don’t get to fight much. I mean, I guess I will in the next two. My wand is rather nice, though. It’s a barley sugar handle. It’s kind of twisted, it’s very refined. Mad-Eye Moody’s wand is very lumpy, but mine has a kind of regency feel to it. It’s a bit shaky, though.
JP: Do you get to keep it off set?
MW: You’re joking! Man, you don’t even get to … you know, if you read the script in the wrong place, the Harry Potter police come and get you.
JP: If you could, once all of the films are done, take something from the set, what would it be?
MW: In the Weasley household, there is a clock that shows where everybody is. It’s the most beautiful piece of prop-making. Lots of that is unappreciated and you just go on the set and you’re like ‘Oh my God!’ You just want to give it a close-up … The hands are the ends of scissors, and it says things like ‘school,’ ‘work’ … and one of the sections says ‘in mortal peril.’ I’d love that. And it doesn’t work, by the way, cause I’ve been in mortal peril and it didn’t say anything. I’ve come back and it just said ‘at work.’
JP: Have you been caught up in the ‘Harry Potter’ whirlwind?
MW: Well no, not really. I’m just sort of the uncle, you know? God knows what it’s been like for them. But yeah, I get recognized in China, though. Oh yeah, this is a big deal. But it was kind of easier for the older actors cause we’ve [had other roles to identify with] … for Dan and Emma [Watson] and Rupert, they haven’t yet got that choice.
JP: So, it’s been fun?
MW: It’s desperate long hours where you sometimes have to find things to fill the day and you want to be somewhere else. But hey, [stuff] happens, and I’m immensely proud to have been a part of it. Immensely. Some say I’m lucky, but it’s like Gary Player said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
— Jevon Phillips
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
RECENT AND RELATED
STILL WANT MORE? All “HARRY POTTER” coverage at Hero Complex