INTERVIEW: Harry Potter’s “Perfect Percy” Discusses Wands, Food, and Guinea Pigs

The Weasley’s don’t exactly hold a prominent place in the wizarding society, but none seem to be as controversial as the infamous Percy Weasley. “Perfect Percy” is typically known for being an egocentric, power-hungry traitor to his family. Whether he is deserving of those everlasting titles is determined by whomever you talk to in the Harry Potter fandom. Chris Rankin, who plays Percy in the movie series, has his own particular take on the character.

This week I had the opportunity to speak with Chris about his time on set and opinions regarding his character. Obviously he can’t deny the fact that Percy was plagued by making bad decisions, but Chris does have an interesting take on why Percy found himself in his unique predicament.

I think on one hand he has middle child syndrome. He has two older brothers above him that are very dynamic, very cool, have awesome jobs, and sailed their ways through school straight into fun jobs (one of them works at Gringotts and another with training dragons). It really doesn’t get much better than that. Below him he has the twins. Yes, they are really annoying and don’t play by the rules, but they are fully dynamic, bright, entrepreneurial, and funny. Then there is Ron below who is Harry Potter’s best friend; you really can’t beat that. Finally, you’ve got Ginny who is the only girl in the family. Percy kind of gets lost in the middle somewhere, and in order to compensate for that he comes across as a complete git. People always talk to me about him and say, “Percy has such a big head and is pompous. He is very bright, very clever, and always being such a swot in doing his homework.” I think this is actually because he is not that intelligent. I think his brothers, like Bill and Charlie, have this natural ability to do things, but he has to work three times as hard as them to keep up and prove himself amongst this family of really cool kids. I feel really sorry for the kid.

Now thirty-five years old, Chris reflects on his time with the Harry Potter franchise. He continues to work in the movie industry but, obviously, does not forget that the Potter movies are responsible for launching his career. Chris joined the movies when he was still in school, an enormous task for a young child.

I was sixteen, nearly seventeen, when I started filming Potter… I had done plenty of acting but it was always in an amateur setting. It was always with kids of the same kind of experience level and background as me. Going from doing our end of the year the year school show, Jesus Christ Superstar, and singing that as well as I possibly could to suddenly having to stand next to Maggie Smith and pretend I knew what I was doing was a little bit of a stretch. I’d say that was the hardest bit of it. I was just trying to be as good as these guys are, and they had probably been doing it a lot longer than me.

Unfortunately, Percy’s story arc was quite limited in regards to the movies. Like many details in the books, much of the character’s background was limited or cut due to time restraints. Special edition DVDs filled with deleted movie clips have made their way into stores over the past decade, but even these omit quite a few scenes that were part of the original filming sessions.

The key bit, which I am still gutted about, was with Percy taking the young Gryffindors to show them around. We do the bit with the moving staircases and then it cuts to The Fat Lady in the portrait. Between the stairs and The Fat Lady we had this two-minute section where we met Peaves the Poltergeist, who was played by a brilliant comic actor and comedian by the name of Rik Mayall. Sadly, he passed away about five or six years ago now. He was amazing, absolutely the funniest and most brilliant guy to work with… We actually spent two weeks filming corridor stuff, and Rik Mayall came out for five days to stand behind the camera and do his lines himself. This is unheard of, but I guess they did it because Rik Mayall’s style is such a unique thing. He was very into adlibbing, throwing things in, and changing things to make it off the cuff. It was slightly volatile in places but he taught me a lot about how to keep a straight face on camera. It was hard having the camera eight inches from your face while you had Rik giving his banter. I learned how to keep a straight face very quickly with that and also learned a lot of very rude words that week. Rik was a cheeky man and a delight to work with.

Some of the most memorable scenes at Hogwarts include feasts in the Grand Hall. The bright colors, vast amounts of food, and giddy students are easy for many to recall. Who wouldn’t want to be lucky enough to have a large buffet of food instantaneously appear before you? However, the reality of the meal seems far from magical.

When we first started filming The Philosopher’s Stone all of the food in the Hall was real and there in front of us. It was a delight for the senses, stomach, and everything. You had your food on a plate and would eat it. Then, the director would yell cut and some poor prop man would come put back a fresh new plate of food in front of you. That scene took about three weeks to film and what they did not do was change the food down the middle of the tables. The serving platters just kind of stayed there, and you can imagine under studio lights with the heat of three hundred and fifty extras lining the tables… After a week and a half Maggie Smith would walk in and sort of joke by saying, “What does the room smell of today?” It got pretty grim. After that, they did castings of real food and painted them up instead. The food in the middle was fake but the food on our plates in front of us was real. But believe me, after doing a day and a half of doing eating scenes you will never want to eat again. Literally you eat all morning, break for lunch, then come back from lunch to continue eating again. Oh God, it is excruciating…

The most recognizable props in the Harry Potter movies are arguably the wands. The wands are used for class, convenience, and fighting. However, in the films not every actor received one due to the simple fact that their character did not need them for their scenes. Chris had already been in four Harry Potter movies before he was finally given a wand.

When we got to the battle scenes [in The Deathly Hallows] I was very ceremoniously handed a wand by a prop man. Honestly, there are hundreds of these things for the extras and I just assumed that someone had handed me a twig. I didn’t think anything of it until a couple of years later when I was doing a signing at a convention and someone came up to me with a collector’s edition of Percy Weasley’s wand. It completely took me back, that my wand existed! I had no clue. This guy just turned up with a box that had a nice little plaque on it and I was like, “That’s my wand!” So much thought had gone into the process that this was the wand Percy was meant to have…

Chris will be in Dallas this weekend for the 2018 LeakyCon. The annual Harry Potter convention will be hosted at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. Those lucky enough to have gotten tickets to the event will have the opportunity to hear him speak in panels and meet him in person. Click here to find the detailed schedule of events and more information about this weekend.

Can't wait for this weekend? Still want to know more about Chris Rankin or what it was like filming the movies? You can discover what Percy’s patronous might be, the story behind Chris’s childhood guinea pigs, how Chris would fair as a politician, and more in the full interview transcript by clicking here!