It’s been 20 years since the legendary Harry Potter franchise hit cinemas and became a global phenomenon.
The blockbusters, based on the magical books by author J.K. Rowling, made huge stars of lead characters Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, and sparked spin-off films, clothing ranges and even theme parks.
And, after it was announced that the cast are getting together for a special on-screen reunion, airing on New Year’s Eve, Closer caught up with Jessie Cave, who played Lavender Brown.
Jessie, who beat off competition from an incredible 7,000 other girls to win the role, recalls, “I remember it so vividly. I only had two proper auditions and then a screen test, but the whole process spanned six months of my life.
“I didn’t think it would happen, and when they finally rang, it was like I’d got a call saying I’d won the lottery, I’d won the golden ticket!”
CHECK OUT: Harry Potter cast – then and now
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)
Daniel worked hard to shake off the wizard-y typecasting that launched his career by taking on some majorly diverse, sometimes disturbing roles.
Jessie, now 34, first appeared in the 2009 film Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince as Gryffindor student Lavender, the love interest of Ron Weasley, played by Rupert Grint.
Actress and writer Jessie – who has since starred in the 2012 film adaptation of Great Expectations and British sitcom Glue, as well as topping the Sunday Times Bestseller list this year with her debut novel Sunset – went on to star in the next two hit films.
She says, “It changed the course of my life. You’re only ever [as good as] your last job, so it was such an amazing stepping stone, and I don’t know what my career would have been like without it. I can’t imagine my life without Harry Potter.”
Although she remains in touch with a few of her co-stars, Jessie laughs, “It’s been 15 years – it’s not like I’m WhatsApping Daniel Radcliffe! Although I do have such an embarrassing story,” she smiles.
“It wasn’t that long after the Half-Blood Prince came out. Daniel was walking along the same street as me and, as you do when you see someone you’re friends with, you shout their name – but it was different because he had two huge bodyguards with him. At the time I dressed quite eccentrically and I think the bodyguards thought I was trying to stampede Daniel – it was excruciating.
“We had a sweet chat and said bye… and then it turned out that we were walking the same way so I ended up following him.”
But while she may not speak to them every day, Jessie has nothing but praise for her former co-stars Daniel, Rupert and Emma, who played Hermione Granger, adding, “As a child, you don’t have a sense of perspective, you’re just doing your job. I think they handled it amazingly, and they had really supportive families and they were always pleasant on set.”
Read more celeb stories
And if proof was needed of how the Wizarding World has stood the test of time, Jessie says her own children have been hooked by the franchise. Mum to Donnie, seven, Margot, five, and Tennessee, one, who she shares with her comedian partner Alfie Brown, Jessie – currently expecting her fourth child – say the older two are enamoured by the films – although less impressed that she features in them.
“During lockdown, we got through all of them,” she says. “I asked them, ‘What’s your favourite bit about Harry Potter?’ hoping they would say, ‘You, Mummy’ – but they find me quite embarrassing in it!
“They can’t get over the fact that I kiss Ron. Although Margot was upset when my character was killed in the last film. I pretended that she didn’t actually die, because in the books it’s not clear anyway – so I was like, ‘She’s just having a sleep!’ They were also hooked on the books. It’s only from seeing it through their eyes that I’m really appreciating them.”
Watch: Rylan Clark-Neal spills the beans on his Harry Potter role - exclusive
Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts will be available on Sky or Now TV from 1 January.
Get the best celeb interviews in Closer magazine each week.