Tom Felton is a long way from home. The Harry Potter star, who appeared as Draco Malfoy in eight mega-blockbusters over 10 years, is no where near the fog-laden Harry Potter sets of London, but he is standing in the middle of Hogsmeade. I met Felton at Universal Studios' yet-to-be-opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter for a chat, and the irony of walking around snow-covered Hogsmeade in eternally sunny Los Angeles doesn't escape either of us. "It's absurd," he says, pointing to the snow-capped shop where a book, featuring Gilderoy Lockhart's pretentious mug, smiles at us through the window. "But it's brilliant."
Felton himself is a London-to-Southern California transplant, so the setting for our chat seems oddly fortuitous. "Dude, I live out here now," he tells me. "I'm going to the beach a lot. I swim in the ocean every day. I skateboard."
And he certainly has the SoCal look down: He's wearing a casual white tee with a subtle aqua design, light wash jeans rolled up his ankles, black Nikes, and a grey blazer he quickly takes off (we're standing in the hot sun, after all). The pearly white skin and matching white hair audiences are used to seeing in the Potter films is long gone. Instead, Felton is a deep, almost burnt, tan. He's blonde — not Malfoy blonde — but sun-kissed, salt-water drenched, blonde. And if he never opened his mouth to reveal his Surrey accent, I'd take him for a local.
"At this particular part in my life, I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy the sunshine. It beats London," he says, adjusting several beaded bracelets on his wrist. ["As kids, we were brought up on [set], so I didn't know what working life as an actor was. Doing it as a kid is one thing, [acting] as an adult is a whole other kettle of fish," he says of working in Los Angeles.
After all, Felton was just 13-years-old when he started filming the magical franchise. He wasn't old enough to drink or drive, let alone make many big decisions without the approval of a parent. When he was hired onto the franchise as a child, he knew what the next 10 years of his working life would entail. Now, it's not so cut and dry.
Since the final Harry Potter film was released five years ago, Felton has had to work to get work. He's appeared in more than a dozen films and miniseries since HP wrapped, notably the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, In Secret, and Belle, but none have had quite the impact of Potter. And Felton reasons, no film ever will. "This is something that isn't going anywhere and is going to be with me for the rest of my life," he says. "We've seen Twilight and Hunger Games and a whole bunch of other things come and sort of go, and it's special to think that Potter is here to stay. I really thought [the franchise] was gonna die a slow death when the films were finished."
But with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Los Angeles, the theme park's third location, clearly Felton's hypothesis is far from proven. To Felton, being in the Wizarding World — scorching sun and all — is far more enveloping than being on the real Harry Potter set. "The sets are all very immersive in their own way, but there's one wall missing, and a bunch of guys there with a camera, scaffolding, and green screen, and a guy with a tennis ball pretending it's a dragon," he says. "That's why when [the cast] watched the first few films we would go, 'Wait a minute, is that me? I don't remember doing that.'"
"[The Wizarding World] doesn't feel like a set at all because the walls are solid, and nothing is made out of polystyrene, and it's completely and utterly immersive," he says. "There are tiny little introspective details that no one's really going to notice, but it's there for the one person out of a million who does, which is special." (According to supervising art director Alan Gilmore, some of these details include real props from the sets of the films, sneakily incorporated into the theme park's decor).
But Harry Potter's infinite reach doesn't stop in Hollywood. Universities across the globe have real muggle Quidditch teams, artists and novelists create their own Harry Potter spin-off worlds, and the fandom continues to spread, nearly 20 years since the first book was published in the UK in 1997. "The creativity that's come off the back of Potter is remarkable: Fan fiction, art, their own stories, wardrobe, music — wizard rock? You've heard of this?" he asks, explaining: "There are hundreds of bands that make a living touring with wizard rock. Draco and the Malfoys is supposed to be a huge band. It blows my mind every time I hear something like that. It's a testament to why it's so powerful. It really inspired an entire generation to create."
Felton, though he played one of the most iconic Slytherins in the novels, was sorted into Gryffindor house on Pottermore, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter digital publisher and news source. "Those bastards," Felton says of his sorting results. "I was trying to answer the questions in a Slytherin fashion, and I think the machine knew, and so it gave me the wizarding middle finger and put me in Gryffindor. [J.K. Rowling] always thought I was a Gryffindor, so I'll take it as a compliment."
Now, Felton is busy filming two features, Sheep & Wolves, and Feed. But what does he think Draco is up to now? Well, maybe he doesn't. "No idea," he says. "Kids? Family? Wife? Mischief?"
While in 2016 Draco Malfoy might be causing mischief with a wife at his side — while bouncing a Slytherin baby on both knees — (or not), Felton's immediate future seems a bit more clear. He's a beach bum now, and when he's not pursuing acting roles in the City of Angels, you can find the Englishman on the sandy California shores. Accio mojito, amiright?