With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald released in cinemas worldwide today, we spoke to young Newt Scamander actor Joshua Shea earlier this week. Playing the role meant Joshua worked alongside Jude Law who plays Dumbledore in the film and had to learn the traits of Eddie Redmayne’s character Newt Scamander to portray young Newt at Hogwarts. Joshua told us about working with CGI, acting alongside the cast and his experience of playing young Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
What was the experience like on the set of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and playing young Newt Scamander?
Playing Newt was an incredible experience. I think playing the younger Eddie Redmayne in itself is always going to be an incredible experience because he is such a wonderful actor, I’ve always admired him, his work in The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl and Fantastic Beasts is always really amazing. I think the opportunity to play Newt and develop his younger self was incredible for me because it meant that I got to watch Eddie Redmayne and study his work and try to re-interpret that and reproduce my own version and I think that was a big learning curve for me.
Did you have to work closely with Eddie Redmayne to learn Newt’s traits?
I spent a day with him on set which was lovely and I got to meet him and learn about his process and learn about Newt as a character. The first movie is a great research tool because it allowed me to look into some of his mannerisms and even his gait, the way he walks, it’s all very clear, he is a very particular character.
How easy was it for you to get into character?
I think at first it probably was more difficult because you are not on the sets and working alongside other actors, especially on the first self-tape which I sent in for the audition, it was difficult to imagine another person or a creature there. Once I had more experience of working with the director, David Yates, who was really inspiring and really supportive, it allowed me to get into Newt much better. I think just being on set and experiencing that world and that universe was really helpful because I think it does take time as an actor to develop the character and get it right but I was amongst a supportive cast and crew who were there to help me out and it didn’t feel too difficult at the time.
How did it feel putting on the Hogwarts clothes?
It was lovely. The costume designer, Colleen Atwood, is incredible and to meet her and to see her work and go into the wardrobe where all of her costumes are created was just incredible. I think that the costumes are amongst the best part of this, the aesthetic of this movie is the colours and what she creates is just incredible so I think that being able to be in her clothes and wear them was amazing. I think it did feel like I was coming back to my childhood walking back into Hogwarts and experiencing that because obviously I’d seen the Harry Potter movies with Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson playing in them, so wearing that was lovely!
As Newt Scamander is involved with creatures, does your version of the character have any interaction with them in the film – if so, what was it like to film those scenes?
I can’t really talk about what scenes I am involved with in the movie because it’s quite under wraps but I had to work a lot with CGI and I think that working with that, you have to work with your imagination quite a lot, whether it’s a creature or whether it’s part of the set, it is lovely because it means you have more to work with. They build Paris and New York at Leavesden in Watford so I think actually all of this is really encompassing to be on the set. I can’t give much information about the scenes I’m in, but I think working on set and experiencing that was amazing.
You appear to work closely with Dumbledore actor Jude Law – what was it like meeting him and the rest of the cast for the first time?
Jude Law was lovely to work with. As soon as he walked on set the atmosphere completely changed and he was so encouraging and lovely. You think that an actor like that, when they walk on set, you would feel kind of intimidated but because the character he’s playing is Dumbledore, who is just so welcoming and so caring, I think that comes across and it makes you feel comfortable as an actor as well. It’s like that support of a teacher and as a friend of Newt’s in the future, you feel that from Jude and he is an incredible actor, he really does portray Dumbledore in this incredible sort of grandeur and it was lovely to work with him. I was very excited as when I first read the script I wasn’t sure whether I was going to work with Jude or whether it was going to be another actor playing Dumbledore, but working with him was incredible.
Was there anything about your time on set that you enjoyed the most?
I think probably meeting Eddie on set was one of the highlights for me because being able to talk to him and sit in his trailer and experience a day almost ‘in his life’, I think that was surreal, he’s always inspired me as an actor and to meet him and to understand his process was incredible.
Have you seen the finished production and what was it like seeing yourself involved in the movie?
Yes, I watched the film yesterday for the first time and it was crazy seeing myself, I could feel my heart rate going up quite a lot because it’s strange seeing yourself in that. I judge myself a lot so I think you have to try and not be too critical on your performance and it was slightly uncomfortable but also lovely to see the finished piece as well. It’s a really amazing film, I really enjoyed it as well as it being quite nerve racking to see yourself!
Why do you think the Fantastic Beasts franchise appeals to a wide audience?
I think everyone can relate to it. I think the childlike nature of the universe parallels against this kind of real life experience of people and it becomes like a parallel universe alongside our world so we can explore the quite politically taxing scenes but it can be used as imagery to suggest a wider point. I think Fantastic Beasts is largely encompassing the theme of how people can choose good or evil, so it’s like the beast can represent someone who has the choice to do good or bad and I think that’s quite simple in itself. That can be interpreted very easily by a child but I think underneath that is this huge moral that can teach adults lessons as much as it can teach kids lessons. It doesn’t seem childlike, especially this movie, it gets very dark and it has some underlying darker themes and parallels to the world we’re living in now. It’s set during World War II so I think the parallels to our real world makes it accessible for all ages and just brings it closer to home.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is released in cinemas today worldwide through Warner Bros. Pictures.
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