FanExpo 2016: James and Oliver Phelps

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Potterites poured into the panel: Staves were stored and hoods lowered in anticipation of the Phelps Twins’ arrival. As the hour approached, many were silently casting accio sella spells, finding seats only at the far sides of the hall. My own magic (and forethought) allowed me to apparate a perfect central aisle seat at the very back. We may have arrived in town too late for Tom Felton, but there was no way I’d miss seeing the actors who played my favourite characters from the Harry Potter universe: Fred and George Weasley, played (respectively) by James and Oliver Phelps.


While differentiating between the two identical twins might not be easy, no one present could confuse them for their characters for one unmistakeable reason: They are not ginger. Schoolmates didn’t initially believe them when they said they’d been cast in the first Harry Potter movie. Not even having their hair dyed for the parts convinced them: They thought the Phelps were having them on (messing with them), and that the dye jobs were just taking it too far. The joke was on them when James and Oliver were excused from school for nine months!


Much has changed over the course of seven movies. The guys recalled initially being overawed by the presence of acting legends such as Gary Oldman. The tables were turned years later when James said they ran into a “very well-known basketballer” who was a “very very very big Harry Potter fan” (Kobe Bryant, clarified Oliver). Fame aside, playing a character that long would affect any actor, but the Phelps’ took on the roles at fourteen, which Oliver explained is just when you start learning who you are. James added that he was once so painfully shy that being onstage in front of thousands would have been impossible for him. Playing a class clown really helped, as he had to learn to be the one making jokes instead of ‘sulking’ at the back of class. “Life’s too short to be serious all the time”


The two certainly take that to heart, telling stories of the times they switched places both on and off set. It is one thing however, to switch places in a Great Hall scene, and another to do so in real life. The two told a (hypothetical) story of a pair of twins that traded places for exams: One twin was better at math and sciences, while the other was better at cricket, and as those particular exams fell on the same day, they switched places. It seemed to go well, until the next day, when the more scientifically-inclined of the twins was greeted at school by an administrator: ‘Why are you here? You got suspended!’ It turned out that the cricket player got into a row with the ref. The moral of the story? “Never trust your twin”


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