The Radio Times logo

The Dursleys weren't as bad as you think...

Fiona Shaw – the woman who brought Harry's aunt to life – explains how the Muggle family from Little Whinging were "just trying to get on with it"

Published: Monday, 16th May 2016 at 3:13 pm

We know them best as Harry Potter's cruel aunt, uncle and cousin but Fiona Shaw (who brought Aunt Petunia to our cinema screens) says JK Rowling's Dursley family aren't really as bad as we believe them to be.


"The extraordinary thing about the Dursleys is not only are they normal and ordinary and therefore full of the fantastical fears that people who are normal and ordinary are full of, and dread events happening and find that a lot of events happen, but they’ve also got the vulnerability of people," she explains to from her perch on the sofa in number 4 Privet Drive.

"I was always very pro the Durlseys, I liked who they were, because they’re just trying to do well in life," she says of the family, who infamously keep the Boy Who Lived in a cupboard under the stairs and lie to him about his past.

"I think a lot of children have that experience of their parents who they find boring, old-fashioned, nerdy," the actress continues. "Actually the poor old Dursleys were just trying to get on with it."

That doesn't mean she thinks Rowling's creations were angels, though.

"Maybe they were slightly trying to top their neighbours, maybe there was a bit of that, certainly Petunia was, but that would be an act of imagination, but just a limited imagination and maybe not a generous imagination," Shaw chuckles.

"Generosity is the thing the kids learn when they get to the school, so they expand into another sphere. And all they do is they expand their minds. Magic is expansion, mind expansion."


Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – the Making of Harry Potter unveils the interior set of number four, Privet Drive for the first time from 27th May for a limited time only. For more information see


Sponsored content