Do you recognise this chap? The somewhat hunkier Matthew Lewis of today bears very little resemblance to his most famous character - dorky Neville Longbottom - who shot him to fame during the days of the Harry Potter film franchise. Nowadays, Lewis is tackling an altogether different role, playing Gordon "Towerblock" House in the second series of Bluestone 42.
Joining the Afghanistan-based unit in replacement of Gary Carr's Sergeant Mills, it doesn't take Towerblock long to ruffle some feathers, particularly those of Captain Nick Medhurst (played by Oliver Chris). But in reality, Lewis is living the dream - filming with the cast and crew out in sunny South Africa. Jealous much?
In between filming, Matthew found time to give us a bell and tell us all about his latest role - here's what he said...
What can you tell us about your character?
I play ammunition technician Corporal Gordon House. He’s a Yorkshireman who’s just been transferred into team Bluestone 42 and he’s the best of the best at what he does. He’s passed all his exams at the top of the class and that’s why he’s been picked by the captain but he’s got a bit of a working class chip on his shoulder and Nick and Gordon don’t get on immediately.
So, who comes up with the name "Towerblock"?
He comes from the north and is always having a go at the captain for being a posh public schoolboy so the captain has a dig of his own...
If you could describe Gordon in three words, what would they be?
Efficient, affable and fearless.
Who are you more similar to - Towerblock or Neville?
The terrible thing is in the Christmas episode, Towerblock’s a complete dick so if I say that now everyone’s going to think, “What, really?” but he’s alright after that. I’m more like Towerblock in the rest of season 2.
Did you have to do lots of training to achieve your "army physique"?
Well, not so much a regime. James and Richard very kindly put in some shirtless scenes so there was a degree of work – thanks for that, guys. I’ve been working a little bit but I’ve got a few friends who’ve served out there and they don’t get a whole lot to eat and they’re pretty exhausted a lot of the time, particularly the bomb disposal guys who don’t have a lot of time for downtime and rest. They’re not the biggest of guys in the world.
What can you tell us about the Christmas special? What should we expect?
We’ve got Gordon’s arrival which we’ve already shot and obviously there's a bit of a class war between Nick and I going out on ops together. Gordon’s really not up to speed - he likes to think he knows everything but he doesn’t and it all gets a bit hairy. There’s going to be a lot of action, doing things that a lot of other Christmas specials just aren’t able to do because what happens out in Afghanistan happens around the clock – it doesn’t stop for a nice little national holiday so it’s good to be able to show what these guys are going through while everyone else is tucking into their Christmas dinner.
We bet it's not so fun wearing the bulky uniforms in the blazing heat?
When you’ve got the body armour and the helmets and the rifles, they're pretty heavy but we’ve got an ATO - an ammunition technical officer - ex-captain Liam Fitzgerald and he’s been out on several tours of duty in Afghanistan. He’s got medals from the Queen and you hear his stories and what they actually have to put up with out there - it makes all our moaning and our complaining seem pretty pathetic.
How do you keep yourselves amused between takes? Do you have any on-set pranksters?
Stephen Wight is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. The choices that he makes and his instinct for humour – I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s just got a real gift and on days when you’re out in the hot weather and people are starting to lose energy, he just brings it back up.
Is there anything quintessentially British that you really miss when you're out in South Africa?
I brought tea with me and we’ve got Dairy Milk but I’ve been missing the rugby league. They don’t do rugby league in South Africa anywhere – and I mean anywhere – they do rugby union. I called up every bar in Capetown and no one’s got it.
Do you still get recognised for Harry Potter?
Yes. We’re in a sleepy little student town called Stellenboch which is about 45 minutes outside Capetown and people here seem to be really big on Harry Potter. It’s weird, you come around the other side of the world - and I’ve been to premieres in other countries through Potter - but it shocks you every time, you never get used to it.
Are they surprised when you don't act like Neville in real life?
Some are, some aren’t. Some people just ask, “What the hell are you doing in Stellenboch?" People grew up with Harry Potter and with Neville Longbottom and you can’t really blame them for assuming you’re going to be something. I guess there are a couple who might be quite surprised in the difference between myself and Neville but I finished that three years ago.
What have you got coming up after you finish filming on Bluestone?
I've got a couple of scripts this week that I’ve got to read. It’s always difficult when you’re doing something on the other side of the world but there are some things that have been sent this week that I’ll have a look through. I’m quite looking forward to just having a nice bit of time back home with people for Christmas.
The Bluestone 42 Christmas special is on Monday 23 December at 10pm on BBC3