C. Molly Smith
January 29, 2018 5:06 pm

The only thing better than having Matthew Lewis (AKA NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM) back on-screen, is having him return for a TV show that reunites him with other Harry Potter alums. Because, honestly, who doesn’t love an on-screen Harry Potter reunion?

Matthew Lewis’ new show is Girlfriends, which is about: “Three women of a certain age are juggling the challenges of modern life when a tragedy exposes secrets that put their friendship to the test,” Acorn TV describes. Those three women are Linda (Phyllis Logan), Sue (Miranda Richardson), and Gail (Zoe Wanamaker).

You probably recognize Logan as Mrs. Huges on Downton Abbey, and Richardson as pesky “journalist” Rita Skeeter and Wanamaker as flying instructor Madam Hooch in the Harry Potter films. Lewis’ Neville Longbottom, you’ll recall, ran into some trouble with Hooch when he wiped out during his first flying lesson. And prepare for déjà vu…

Matthew Lewis finds himself in trouble in Girlfriends, even without broomsticks. He plays Tom, the rebellious son of Gail who’s trying — but struggling — to move forward in life. And sadly, it appears there won’t be a reunion with Neville’s pet toad, Trevor, to top it off, but from the trailers and from what Matthew Lewis told us, Girlfriends promises a *whole* lot of drama, intrigue, and — AHEM — mischief…

HelloGiggles: What excited you about the role of Tom, and Girlfriends as a show?

Matthew Lewis: I’ve worked with [writer] Kay [Mellor] several times before, and she has consistently — throughout actually my entire life — been turning out some wonderful television in the U.K., which has always championed not only my area, my hometown [of Leeds], and the whole region of Yorkshire, but also championed very real northern working class people who are very rarely seen on television. Probably more so now than ever before, but historically very, very rarely seen on television — particularly on this side of the pond [the U.S.], when all people tend to see is James Bond or Sherlock Holmes and London and that kind of world. Kay has always been a keen champion of the north.

So when she sent me the scripts for this, I devoured them very, very quickly. Then I called her up and I told her that I was a fan of the series. She explained [Tom’s story] to me, and [she had] such a passion for this one. I mean, she’s passionate about every story that she writes, but this one felt like it had more of her in it than any of the previous ones ever had — her and her friends. She said herself, it was a real passion project for her.

I think that Tom is just so incredibly relatable to so many people. Previews or character descriptions, I don’t think do him justice. I think that people have to watch it to really appreciate Tom because he’s a good man. He really is. He has a good soul and he means well. But, he’s been so doted on by his mother that he is incapable of taking control of his own life. He’s incredibly selfish at times and he doesn’t think. And, he’s irresponsible and immature. He’s not capable of looking after his son. But, he tries. He does try.

This series is a real journey for him, of maturity, and the relationship between mother and son and when a mother dotes on her son too much. When is the time to draw the line? How far is too far? … That’s what we see between them. It’s very interesting, very tender at times, explosive other times, and it’s a really interesting journey for both characters.

HG: What can we expect from Tom, looking ahead? Will there be a confrontation between Tom and his mother, with her drawing that line with him?

ML: Absolutely. Gail is attempting to get her soon-to-be ex-husband to not divorce her and that is very difficult with Tom because Tom and Dave have never seen eye-to-eye — probably because Dave tells Tom like it is. It’s something that Tom actually knows. It’s the idea that Tom knows that he pushes it too far. He knows that he dumps everything on his mother. But, he doesn’t want to admit [that] to himself yet. So when Dave comes around and tells him like it is, he reacts badly to that because he knows it’s true. Tom will never change. He will constantly blame other people until his mother calls him out on it. When he realizes he’s got no one to blame but himself. But, while he [has the] support of his mother, he’ll constantly think other people are the problem.

This obviously [will] have to change and that is where we’ll go. We’ll start to see Gail become much more empowered, believing in herself — she’s not just an old woman ready to be thrown on the scrap heap. She’s got so much more to offer. She’s stronger than that. That’s her journey, which obviously encompasses both Tom and Dave, and how their relationship will have to improve because Tom can no longer be selfishly thinking of himself. I think the thing that a lot of…children tend to do, they forget that their parents had entire full lives before they came along, that their parents have needs and wants and dreams and aspirations and it comes to a point where you have to stop being so selfish and start thinking of other people for a change.

HG: Part of what’s so great about the show is you have these three mature women in the lead, which is, unfortunately, all too rare. You mentioned Gail finding her strength, but can you expand on how the show empowers women?

ML: It’s a real thing at the minute, obviously. The fact that they’re women, straight off the bat. We may well be seeing more female leads on our TVs than there ever has been, but it’s still not parity; it’s still not equal. We still got a long way to go in so many aspects, which has become abundantly clear in the last few months, that we have a long way to go. So I think just the fact that it’s [led by] three strong women is wonderful. But, also, there’s an age issue. Whether it’s in all life — I can’t speak for every industry, but particularly in our industry — there is a belief that men can continue well into whatever age they want to continue into, whereas women are often unceremoniously, as I said before, tossed on the scrap heap, whether it’s in news anchoring or in Hollywood movies. That’s something that needs to change.

Kay said herself in the read through…”Women so often, particularly women of that age, are playing people’s mothers or people’s secretaries.” Or whatever, she was making all these different [references to] women always having to play these supporting roles. And she went, “But it’s never been,” as far as she was concerned, “the men supporting these women, having all the women lead, the men be their husbands and be their sons and be their secretaries and all that kind of thing.” Finally, in this, she said, “That’s what I’m doing. It’s the men that are the supporting here, and the women are all focus.” I thought that was wonderful. You’ve got three astonishingly good actresses to play these roles. It’s something that everyone’s concerned about actually, male and female. But, in our society, it seems to be much more of a concern for women, unfortunately.

Everyone’s worried about getting old, and your relevance in society. The world is moving so fast now. You can see it with the way people vote, for crying out loud. It’s an entire generation of people who feel like they’re being ignored or they’re no longer wanted or they’re being left behind. It’s just wonderful that Kay is writing a thing that empowers those people. Not really empowers, just something for them to relate to, to feel like they’re actually being represented on TV. I think it’s great. I think the more diversity of this kind of thing that we can get, the better it will be in the long term.

iTV/Rolem

HG: What have you taken away from working with these powerhouse ladies? Did they impart any advice to you? Or, is there anything that you observed through their performances, or through Kay’s writing?

ML: I’m still very much learning my craft. I came out of Harry Potter at 21. I felt that I had to start on the bottom rung of the ladder and really learn. Being on Harry Potter was a breeze, in truth. It was very comfortable. I played [Neville] for a long time. I was comfortable in the role, and knew everyone on set. I knew coming out of that, that comfort would all be gone and I’d have to start afresh from the ground up. That’s what I intended on doing.

I spent the last seven, eight years, trying to hone my craft and do theater, do television, do film, do all different schools of acting to try and learn as much as possible. And, this is an opportunity to watch three women who have an extensive career of brilliant work that spans all mediums of the craft. I got to sit there for weeks and watch ’em do it, and it was fabulous. I’m always learning. I’m always absorbing as much as I can.

I’ll tell you one thing that I think of more than anything is that these three are all leading ladies. When I say that, I don’t mean in terms of their acting credentials or their abilities, which is not up for debate. I’m talking about the way they lead. It’s a responsibility that anyone who wants to play a leading man or a leading woman in any film, TV [show], or whatever has to have. They are leaders, and the environment on a set is taken by them. The environment that those three created was wonderful. It was such a pleasure to come into work. It was so much fun. It was so relaxed. It was so enjoyable.

They had mountains of dialogue. Kay writes very wordy stuff that moves at such a pace that it’s hard to keep up as a viewer, never mind the person trying to learn the dialogue. Things are happening all the time, and it never felt pressured. It never felt like anyone was struggling or finding it difficult. Everyone was just having so much fun. I think that’s a testament to the material, of course, because it was a lot of fun to perform. But, it’s a testament to those three women and their ability to lead, and to make everyone feel comfortable and enjoy their time.

Girlfriends makes its U.S. premiere on Acorn TV on January 29th.

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