Exclusive Interview: Harry Potter Star Devon Murray Talks Favorite Moments and Earning the Role of Seamus
During LeakyCon this past weekend in Dallas, I was able to sit down with actor Devon Murray, who played Seamus Finnigan, and talk with him about some of his favorite memories while filming the Harry Potter franchise.
Alyssa Tieman: Do you want to talk about the audition process and some of your first days on set?
Devon Murray: I didn’t really have an audition, per say. My character was originally cast as an English boy. And I believe J.K. Rowling was like, “No. He’s an Irish character and needs to be played by an Irish person.” So I believe they were watching Angela’s Ashes or something and somebody said, “Oh, we’ll send him over.” Me. And they flew me over. I didn’t know who Harry Potter was or what Harry Potter was. I’d never read the book, I’d never heard of it. So I came over for a screen test. I walked straight past Dan, Rupert, and Emma over to the director, Chris Columbus, and said, “How’s it goin’, Harry? Nice to meet ya.” So they were lookin’ for a stupid Irish guy and they kinda found him that day. I have since actually read the books. Well, not all of them. I got to the sixth one. I’m too cheap. I’m not gonna buy them. I keep buying them and getting them signed. Like, all through the Harry Potter movies, we’d have all the books and we’d get them signed, then give them to charity. You have them signed, you give them to friends. So I’m probably the only person who doesn’t have a signed Harry Potter book. There’s one book in my house from the very first movie that has my autograph. That’s it. So I’ve got my own autograph on a book. Silly.
But our very first day filming was actually insane. And I was like a fish out of water. I’d done movies before, but nothing on this scale. So we were filming…somewhere remote in the UK, I can’t remember exactly where. It was just crazy. Our very first scenes were getting off the train. So that was fun. We got to like, get off the Hogwarts Express and see different things. And then, we were shooting in one of the cathedrals and it’s when we’re walking into Hogwarts. And Maggie Smith—McGonagall—is bringing us up the steps and to the doors. So that was so much fun. Getting to work with Maggie, getting to work on location, all of us in a hotel together—it was great that they’d done that. We all got to know each other a lot better. Had we just been in the studios, the majority of people live in London, so they wouldn’t have been staying in the hotel. It would’ve just been myself and, say, Matthew Lewis, James and Oliver Phelps, Sean Biggerstaff, would’ve been in the hotel. But having us all there, we got to know each other pretty quick. That was fun. And then we went off and had lots of locations on the very first movie. It was a lot of fun.
AT: What was your favorite location?
DM: My favorite location… would’ve been on the third movie. We went to Virginia Water for…. What scene was that? Oh, Hagrid was teaching us his class. And we were there for like three or four weeks. That was just so much fun. Because we were a lot older as well, so we could go out and do more things when we’d finished filming. So it was great.
AT: What was one of your favorite scenes to film?
DM: Again, probably in the third movie. There are a lot of favorite scenes. Obviously, one of my favorite scenes in the first movie is when we’re walking through the doors to the Great Hall. Because we weren’t allowed to see the Great Hall before we went in and filmed it. They wanted it to be a big surprise and everyone can be like, “Ah! Oh my God.” So it was cool to finally get to see it. Because everyone was talking about it. Everyone was speaking about how amazing the set is, except none of us had seen it. Then on the third movie, and it was like a scary movie, and Daniel’s Dad had been speaking to Alfonso, the director, about having a little bit of fun in the movie. So they had us all in our dormitories eating the sweets, then we turned into different animals. In that scene, I think I was meant to be a chicken. So I’m there like, [mimes being a chicken] “Bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk.” But in the movie, they turn me into a monkey. So I’m there “bawking,” but then they had monkey noises coming out. But that was a lot of fun to do because all that movie had been very scary and dark and serious. So to have a little bit of life back in the movie, that was a lot of fun. And then the fourth movie, possibly actually my favorite scene, was the Yule Ball scene when we all had to dance and we had the big concert at the end. That was just insane. You know, we were all able to just go wild for the mosh pit and things like that. That was fun.
AT: They kinda just gave you free reign during the ball?
DM: Oh, yeah, totally. They said, “Just go wild. Do what you guys want.” So we all had Warwick Davis crowd surfing and…. That wasn’t scripted, I don’t think. We were like, “Hey, why not?”
AT: So what was one of the more challenging scenes?
DM: When Dumbledore died. I’d missed a lot of filming in that movie because I was really ill. I’d got Bell’s Palsy. And I was only there for maybe a month on set. But it was so hard. We were absolutely freezing. It was so cold outside. And in the middle of the night, like three or four o’clock in the morning filming. After doing it so many times, it was hard to keep crying and things like that. So David Heyman, the producer, came over and he was like, “Look, guys, this is Dumbledore.” And he started getting really in-depth. So we started crying anyway. It turned out well, but it was just such a hard thing to do. Also, on the last movie, the scene got cut out because of technical and different things. Myself and Matthew were up on the bridge. Actually, I was up on the bridge, like underneath, putting all the explosives into the rafters and things like that. And that was just so hard. We were up like, crazy high. And I don’t have the best balance in the world. So trying to like jump from beam to beam was a nightmare. It was fun, I loved it. We finally got it done and it looked amazing, but then there were speckles or something like that on the film so it ended up getting cut. Unfortunately. Yeah, it was a really cool scene with myself and Neville. He’s screaming down at me, I’m screaming up at him. He’s throwing things at me, I’m jumping from post to post, planting all the explosives. Hanging on for dear life. It was fun. And we got to film that in the James Bond set, as well, in the UK, so that was cool.
AT: You grew up on the films, you were talking in your panel about how your acting got better because you were an 11-year-old boy at the time, so was there anything you learned from your older cast mates? Just from watching them work or them interacting with you, or anything like that?
DM: Just dedication. Like, when you’re a kid, you don’t want to be going home and reading scripts and learning lines. It’s like homework. But you’ve gotta do that. You’ve gotta keep reading, keep reading, going over it all. Trying to improve yourself the whole time. One of my worst things is…. Myself and Rupert, who plays Ron, we are the biggest gigglers in the world. I’d look at Rupert and start pissin’ myself laughing. He’d look at me and start pissin’ himself laughing. So in the fifth movie when Seamus and Harry aren’t seeing eye-to-eye and we’re in our room, and I’m giving it to Harry…. Oh, he’s was giving it about my mother and I was giving it to him. And then Rupert would come in. As soon as Rupert would come in, that was it. The two of us would start pissin’ ourselves laughing. And Alfonso was like, “Come on, guys. Come on, come on.” We couldn’t do it. So they ended up saying, “Look, we’ll come back to this scene another day.” So we were filming another scene later on that day and I think it was Allen who said, “Look, guys, just don’t be thinkin’ about what’s going on. Pinch yourself if you need to. Put your hand in your pocket. Just try not to laugh.” Just giving us different tips. But it didn’t work. Still, to the very last day, Rupert would look at me or I’d look at him and that was it. We’d just get set off.
AT: So last thing, what is one of your favorite behind-the-scenes memories?
DM: You know, all my birthdays between 11 years and 22 years of age, I’d spent on the Harry Potter set. So I wanna say, my very first birthday on Harry Potter. We were on location for Flitwick’s levitation class. And it was the day I got to blow up the feather. So as soon as we finished filming, David Heyman brought in the biggest chocolate cake I’d ever seen in my life. It was huge. First of all, we had a party at lunch hour, then we had a party again when we finished filming. And I got to keep the feather I got to blow up. David Heyman gave me lots of different presents. And everybody was giving presents. And it was just really, really fun. It was the first Harry Potter birthday and I had, and it was great.