Interview: 'We Want Them to Believe the Magic!': Actors Jade Ogugua And Taneetrah Porter on HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD

'The 47 of us back here, 1000 out there, we're all invested in this little world and ready to pour all of our attention and love in for the next five hours'

By: May. 13, 2024
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Interview: 'We Want Them to Believe the Magic!': Actors Jade Ogugua And Taneetrah Porter on HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has made itself a staple on the West End since it first opened at the Palace Theatre nearly eight years ago. The two-part play, written by Jack Thorne, takes place nineteen years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, allowing audiences to see their favourite characters all grown up and with children of their own. 

Recently, we had the chance to chat with Jade Ogugua, who plays Hermione Granger, and Taneetrah Porter, who plays Rose Granger-Weasley. We discussed what is is like to be a part of the iconic franchise, how they have got into their characters in the past six months and some of their favourite magical moments!


How did you both get started in the world of theatre?

Taneetrah: I've always wanted to act! Since I was little, I wanted to be in the dress up box and step into a character. It's always been a path that was in front of me. You go to school and you get thrown into school plays, and then before you know it, you're a theatre kid! [Laughs] And you're fighting with the Year 9s to try and get the best role in Oliver!. And then I came straight out of school and went into drama school. We'd explore lots of theatre pieces and we did lots of live performances. So it’s always been a thing that's been in front of me, an opportunity to dive into. And then before I knew it, I was here in a very big theatre! It was meant to be, I suppose.

Jade: Drama school! [Laughs] Funny enough, when I was really young, I was part of an agency, Scallywags, and I used to do adverts. My parents made me quit when I went to secondary school, because I skipped too much school! If only they'd know that I'd found my career path at nine . . . But obviously, no one was to know, and so I left that behind. By the time I got to 17, 18, I’d done a couple of school plays, but I was really quite shy and stay and had a lot of stage fright, but bizarrely, really still wanted to do it! And so I did a normal degree first. I did a degree in chemistry - nothing to do with theatre. I auditioned for one play at Bristol and didn't get it, and that was it. I was petrified - I couldn't go back! So my only route into into acting was to go to drama school for three years and then just auditioning.

My first play was called Scarlet. Most of my theatre work has been regional, but my first was at Southwark Playhouse, written by Sam Freeman. He's actually just directed and written a fantastic film called Femme - it’s his first film! I'm really happy that I can say my first play was a play that he wrote. Fom then on, I really did regional. It's just been a series of mainly regional theatre. I live in Glasgow, so I've done quite a lot of theatre up in Scotland. Just incremental steps. And then, I'm not gonna lie, a huge leap to the West End. 

And what made you both want to be a part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?

Jade: I mean, hugely that Hermione Granger is an icon! I'm not gonna lie - I've just started book six. I mean, it was in everyone's world as a zeitgeist. My younger brother was a huge fan and actually used to call me Hermione, so I was just hugely flattered! And Hermione Granger's role in the script is badass. Who she gets to be in the play is a bit left field. It could have been a much more straightforward role for her. So it was the script. And I was just so flattered that anyone thought I could do it!

Taneetrah: I have a similar thing because I'm familiar with the franchise, but I wouldn't say I was massively caught up in that - I was more of a Twilight girl! [Laughs] But when I read Rose’s character . . . Just the most ambitious little 11-year-old that you've ever met and this diva-ism. And all the parts of Hermione that I like - driven and strong, constantly, having to clip these two boys around the ears and get everybody to focus. There's a real vein of that in Rose, and seeing how that manifests in this tiny little 11-year-old, who’s just like, “I know the right way! This is how it's gonna go.”

Jade: It's fun getting to play a little genius, isn't it? 

Taneetrah: Yeah! A little know-it-all. The Blue Ivy of the wizarding world!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Both Parts
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

[Laughs]

Taneetrah: I'm ready to back that up! And then I went for the audition and it was a massive challenge. The challenge caught my attention because I'm not particularly athletic or a big dancer, so I was fighting for my life in that audition, just wheezing away! But part of that interested me because I was like, “If I can do that, and then also master the character, it can be something amazing.” So definitely the script and the audition. 

And what is it like playing mother and daughter on stage?

Jade: Oh, it's so great! It's funny, because we’re six months in now - that's new territory for me. The longest play I've done is two months. But what you gain in six months is a sense of comfort with each other, a history that you can draw on, and it becomes more it becomes more real. Similarly, with my relationship with Tommy [Aldridge] as Ron. We've actually got history now that we can draw on and we can use. When you first go against an actor that you're supposed to be related to and you're touching and you’re like, “Is that okay? Is this right?” And now we're just so comfortable with each other. It's fun. I can look at them both and feelings come up that are just so useful. What about you? I hope you like it! [Laughs]

Taneetrah: I love it! And it's a similar thing about how it evolves. Every time we do it, we can add another layer to it and make it work. But even in those early days, it always just felt nice to be like, “This is our little family unit,” to be like, “That's my dad and that’s my mum!” And really endow all of that stuff, like how I feel about my own mother onto you [Jade].

Then as we were working through rehearsals and through this six months, we actually developed a relationship and a banter, an understanding of each other's vibe, and that completely translates to the stage. We're evolving in our relationship offstage and it deepens our relationship onstage. It's just really nice! . . . It's such a deep relationship. It's a neverending opportunity for discovering something.

Jade: And it’s so nice! Two things. First, that before we go on stage, we just happen to be in exactly the same place because the first scene is together - Mummy, Daddy, daughter. And then that moment you're talking about which is, for me, one of the hardest moments in the show, because it's no words and the direction was “break,” basically. It's really hard! But one of my favourite moments, as soon as we've done that, we come off, we hold hands because we walk around the back, and we just have a little check-in.

Onstage and offstage, that's been one of the most helpful parts, just a little check-in after you do a thing that I was really scared about in the play. And it's funny to track that over six months, and how it's become easier because of our little check-ins at the end. It feeds into that part and and how I'm feeling as an actor as well.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Both Parts
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

What is it like being part of such an intense show with two parts?

Taneetrah: It can be a lot! [Laughs] We're working, we keep going on with it, chugging away. But it's one of those things where we've gotten so lucky. We've got a cast full of people that are constantly lifting one another. You go into the green room, there's always somebody to banter with and have an Easter egg with. We all really get each other through it. Even when we're in our “triple double,” as we call it and it's like the last day, or it's Saturday, which is like our hump day, there's always someone to lean on. 

Jade: To me, six months in, I would say 80% is fantastic and 20% is the usual, “I hate myself, this is rubbish, the audience hates me!” 

Taneetrah: Oh yeah!

Jade: But honestly, I went into this and I was like, “How am I going to do a year?” It's training. I see this as if you were playing an instrument. And it definitely has followed that path. There are some days you're going to come in and you feel great, you feel confident. And then you're just like, “I can’t do it, I’m awful!” And then other days, you're just like, “Oh, my God, everything's falling into place. I'm enjoying it, I’m present . . .” The biggest reason for that is just doing it four days a week. For this many weeks. It feels like training in the most amazing way. I took up guitar at the beginning of this thinking, “I can double it up!” And the guitar has not improved at the same rate! [Laughs] But it's so satisfying to feel like you're getting a grasp of your instrument. And sugar!

How does it feel to be part of such an iconic franchise?

Taneetrah: It’s nuts! Especially when we finish out the show and you see people in the audience and some of them are in full Gryffindor attire, you get a couple of Ravenclaws knocking about in the back . . . It's a bit of an all-encompassing thing for people - their lives are so wrapped up in it. I always feel a bit of responsibility, because everybody has a sense of ownership over it and a love for it. You want to handle it in a way that respects that. But it is a lot, sometimes, to see all of that love and you go, “Oh gosh, I can't go up there and do anything crazy!” It's 1,000 people out there that are so heavily invested in this story. But it's a nice environment. It's a nice atmosphere to come pouring out of the audience. We're all here - the 47 of us back here, 1000 out there, we're all invested in this little world and ready to pour all of our attention and love in for the next five hours. It's a nice thing to jump in with people. 

Jade: And what started out as probably the most terrifying aspect of it, the expectation of the fandom, has become the most comforting. Everyone is wanting to have the best time ever, with expectations, but with so much love for these characters and for the story. I've immediately become spoilt! I'm so used to shows, especially week three in, 20% full and half the audience are bored. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not normal to have a full audience every night. It's crazy that every night it's sold out! I can't believe it. So whenever you're feeling a bit overwhelmed or scared about it, you have to remind yourself that it’s also incredible. It's really cool.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Both Parts
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

What is it like getting to perform magic on stage?

Taneetrah: I love it! Me personally, I don't have that many tricks. I have one main moment where I'm in Brooms class and we have that really nice moment with brooms. But that just makes me all the more excited for it! There's an energy that you feel from the audience. There are moments where you can feel this collective moment of wonder and awe. It's really nice to be orchestrating that, like, I just did that trick and people are like, “How'd she do that?” It's nice to be the focal point of that! [Laughs] And the mystery and secrecy as well.

Jade: My favourite thing is being able to move the wand to the sound, and getting it just right! [Laughs] There's one where I do it in quick succession three times, and I can't believe it, I'm so upset. I've actually hurt my back! 

What do you hope audiences take away from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?

Jade: For me, if you're going to sit down and really give up eight hours of your day, the main thing I want is people to be entertained. For that long. I want them to come out and have fun. It's a play of feeling, really, so to be moved, to be excited, to be scared. But I just want them to be entertained for those five hours, because it's a long day, and I'm so grateful that people would spend that long coming to sit on a chair and watch us. So I want them to, at the end, be like, “That was worth it.” [Laughs]

Taneetrah: I have to second that! We're balancing spectacle and storytelling, and as much as you want them to make all the right noises and do the “oohs” and “ahhs” as the magic is going on, parts of it are really simple. It's just about a young boy that's growing up in his relationship with his father and figuring out his place in the world. It's emotional! So you want them to also be tapped into that and fall in love with them a bit and get invested. And we really want them to believe the magic!

And finally, how would you describe Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in one word?

Taneetrah: Extraordinary!

Jade: Magical!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is running at the Palace Theatre.

Production Photo Credits: Manuel Harlan




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