ANTHONY BOYLE IN LONDON, DECEMBER 2016. PHOTOS: JOHANNA NYHOLM. STYLING: NIC JOTTKANDT. GROOMING: TORI HUTCHINSON USING BUMBLE AND BUMBLE. STYLING ASSISTANT: ALISSON RODRIGUES.
For the better part of a year, Anthony Boyle has been immersed in the world of Harry Potter—or, more accurately, that of Harry's middle child, Albus Severus Potter, and his unlikely best friend, Draco Malfoy's son Scorpius. Eight times a week, Boyle plays the 14-year-old Scorpius onstage at the Palace Theatre in London's West End in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opposite Sam Clemmett. The play is divided into two parts, each approximately two and a half hours long, which you can see consecutively on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, or separately on Thursdays and Fridays. It's an incredibly physical show, with plenty of magical stunts including polyjuice potion and swooping dementors. "It's real event theater. It's almost created a new league within itself," Boyle explains. "Part Two is a challenge because I'm on stage for about 45 minutes without coming off, which requires a tremendous amount of focus and energy," he continues. "When I come off after that, I just need to lie down."
In real life, Boyle is 22 and holds a BA in acting from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he's been acting since the age of 16, and even appeared in an episode of Game of Thrones during his first year of drama school. For his work as Scorpius, Boyle was nominated for the Evening Standard's "Emerging Talent" theatrical award. Whether or not he'll follow The Cursed Child to Broadway when it transfers in 2018 remains to be seen.
HOMETOWN: Belfast, Northern Ireland.
FAMILY LIFE: My mum and dad do normal jobs, nothing creative. I was always doing something when I was younger—writing poetry, new stories, or drawing or banging on pots and pans. Dressing up as different characters and stuff. It's always been what I've done. I think my granddad, when he was in school, played Romeo. I think that's true. Someone told me that last week. He was the first person I heard ever say Shakespeare [lines]; we were eating breakfast at my Auntie Theresa's and he quoted something from Richard III.
THEATRICAL BEGINNINGS: I left school when I was 16 and I would just Google auditions every single day. I've done the worst work you've ever seen; I played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet to, like, three people. It was set on a chessboard. It was fucking ridiculous. It sounds like, "Oh, okay, maybe..." but in actuality it was just pants. It was really, really bad. I was dressed like David Bowie and I had Ziggy Stardust makeup on. I don't even want to talk about it; it's traumatic to bring up. I'd done some really bad short films—just any acting work where I could get the chance to perform and try something out. I kept getting a bit bigger and a bit better. I worked my way up.
MOVING TO WALES: I was doing a play at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, and a teacher from the Royal Welsh College came to see it. She asked me to go, and I was like, "Yeah, cool." I wasn't aware of drama school as an option. It wasn't something I had ever planned to do. But a lot of people in Belfast said to me, "You should go," because you should train and it means you can go and see the rest of the world.
GAME OF THRONES: I knew you were going to bring that up. If you blink you miss it. That was in my first week of drama school; I had done three days of school and then they flew me back to Belfast do it. I have about three lines and I'm cockney in it. I'm the only cockney in Westeros. Everyone else is fucking northern and for some reason, I was like, "Do you know what? I'm going to give him a cockney accent." The dialect coach was like, "Okay, darling, we're going to do RP. Just say the lines." I did it and it came out cockney, and she was like, "Okay just try again, this time a bit more like an accent you'd hear on the BBC." I think she just gave up.
TAKING THE STAGE: Everyone thought I was going to do film, and that's what I thought as well. I'd never really seen myself wanting to do theater. I was inspired by Tom Hardy or Gary Oldman or Joaquin Phoenix, Daniel Day Lewis—these screen actors. Then, when I went to drama school, I got bitten by the bug of doing theater. I really fell in love with the rehearsal process and being in a room with other creative people, all trying to pull together to make the one piece of art. The energy in the rehearsal room I crave when I haven't been in it for a while.
GETTING POTTER: I actually had to leave drama school early for Harry Potter. I'd done my first show at Royal Welsh, and a strange man came and saw the play and offered me representation. Two weeks later, I got the Harry Potter gig. It was a very quick turnaround. I auditioned for it. I was sent through a script to read—dummy sides—and I did a self-tape for it and my girlfriend's mum and dad helped me do the self-tape. One of them held the camera, the other one held the light. My girlfriend was reading the lines. It was a three-man operation, a three-headed dragon. Halfway through it, my girlfriend's dad, who is a teacher or something, started giving me fucking notes on the performance, which was very, very amusing. They were all giving me different notes: her mum was like, "Be a bit more playful with it," and her dad was like, "I think this is a sad bit. Nice, do a bit of sad acting."
I got a phone call the next day from the agent saying that they wanted me to go and do a day's work on it. I went and done a movement run, cause the show is very physical, where I had to do all sorts of movement-y stuff, which I'm not very good at. I'm good in a nightclub. If there's a good tune, I can dance—a little bit of Usher—but not so much physical theater, which the show is very heavy on. Then, I had a couple of hours to read the script. It's in two parts—very long—and I'm very dyslexic, so it was sort of difficult. Then I went and read for the director, John Tiffany, and Sonia Friedman, the producer, and the casting director, Julia Horan. It went really well. The room felt really warm and it felt like we were on the right track really early. Three days later they offered me the role.
SCORPIUS MALFOY AND HIS PLATINUM LOCKS: It just said I was auditioning for "lead boy" in the casting breakdown that was sent out; I wasn't aware who the character was until I had read the script on the last day of auditions. No one knew what the play was about, so I thought I was going to play Sirius Black.
In the show I wear a wig, but I always wanted to dye my hair blond cause I'm a massive fan of Eminem. I had a Slim Shady phase, a big rap phase. Me and my brother watched him when we were younger. Kanye West has dyed his hair blond as well. I love him; I really think the man can do no wrong. I'm a massive Yeezy fan. So I wanted to dye it blond, but they said that because my hair is so dark naturally that within a week it would fall out and we couldn't have a bald 14-year-old. I think they're missing a really key demographic there. There could be something.
MAINTAINING A STAGE PRESENCE: I do still get excited, actually. The audiences are just incredible. I've never been in a theater with an audience like it. I think it's because the majority of our audience aren't even theatergoers. I went to see a play recently, and the majority of people in the audiences are old, white, middle class people sleeping. It's not a fucking museum. You want the theater to seem alive and a bit dangerous. You can see that when the audience comes in—there's a real buzz and excitement, and we can see that on stage. You can sense the energy that they're bringing into the space.
PERFORMANCE HIGHS AND THE TRUMP EFFECT: Someone proposed to someone just before the play started a couple of months back. That was one of the most raucous performances ever. Everyone was going absolutely mad.
After Trump was elected, it wasn't a bad audience, but it was like a national tragedy that had happened. It was very odd. I think that the people didn't really want to laugh as much. We have a lot of Americans coming over to see the play. It was a brilliant show and everyone was amazing, but you could feel that something had happened collectively. It in the people's consciousness and the room wasn't directly focused on the play.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD PARTS ONE AND TWO ARE CURRENTLY ON AT THE PALACE THEATRE IN LONDON. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE PLAY'S WEBSITE.