Meet Broadway’s New Harry Potter, James Snyder
When James Snyder first auditioned for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” he read for the role of Draco Malfoy, the hero’s school rival turned fellow concerned parent in the Tony-winning Broadway show, which picks up on Platform 9 ¾ where the seventh book ended.
Snyder had time to dig into Malfoy’s background and really prepare, but after the audition, the associate director asked him to come back for a different part: Harry Potter.
“I went home, and I said, ‘I don’t think it went really well, but they want me to come back for Harry Potter,’” Snyder said. “And my wife’s like, ‘What are you talking about? If they are now asking you to come back for Harry Potter, I think it went very well.’”
Snyder had less than a week to switch gears and delve into the title role, and he found himself connecting to the grown-up Boy Who Lived as a father and a husband. Now Snyder is leading the new cast of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” at the Lyric Theatre, starting March 20. Directed by John Tiffany, the Tony-winning production is the eighth installment of the famed epic, with a story by Tiffany, J.K. Rowling, and playwright Jack Thorne.
“I really connected with the material, and I’m so fortunate they saw that thing with me that really understood Harry and what his journey was, and what his heart is,” Synder said. “That’s something that I hope I share with Harry, is his enormous heart, and his wanting to believe that the world is a better place, and that he can help make it better.”
TodayTix caught up with Snyder to talk about his background with the stories, the eerie ties between him and Potter, and what it means to be the first American actor taking on this iconic role.
What was your first introduction to Harry Potter, and why are you excited to take on the role?
My first introduction to Harry Potter was the books. I read the first four books in college, and then really got into the films when they started coming out. I’ve always been in love with magical worlds — anything that creates an entire universe where anything’s possible.
How do you relate to Harry?
Harry’s a father. The journey begins with Harry sending his second son, Albus Severus Potter, off to Hogwarts. And the action begins there and moves forward, and as someone who’s just sent his son to kindergarten — and I have another one in preschool — I connect with Harry as a father, and then also with Harry as a husband.
I think he wants to do good. He was handed a pretty bad situation. He grew up an orphan in a terrible home, and yet somehow, he decided that he was going to just see the good in everything, and try and make things better. I connect with that because I do believe that the world is inherently good, that people are good, and they want to do better.
Have you read the books to your kids?
So Oliver just turned 6, and he just lost his first tooth, and Willa, my daughter, is 3 and a half. We watched the first movie to test it out, and he’s not ready yet. And but there is an illustrated version, so once I get this open, I’m going to start to reading on the illustrated ones that they release.
You’re the first American this role. What does that mean to you?
It’s already a daunting task to step into this role knowing that it’s one of the most well-known characters in the entire world. And then to be an American who’s stepping into that, I do not take it lightly. If I step back and look at what that might mean, it gets very overwhelming. For me, my job is to just play a human being who grew up in Surrey in Little Whinging and who found out he was a wizard, and now has kids. At the end of the day, I think if I honor who Harry is, I’m doing my job. So it’s humbling, it’s scary, and I pinch myself every chance I get because it’s a dream come true.
How do you manage expectations but also make it your own?
It’s an actor’s job to get out of the way. I have to allow Harry to exist, allow the words to do the job, allow the staging, allow the scar, allow the hair, allow the glasses, to do their jobs. It’s not about bringing more me to it. It’s just letting Harry’s life and these stories and what we know of Harry do the work and tell the story.
What’s your Hogwarts house?
I’ve done all the Pottermore stuff. I’m a Gryffindor actually, so it worked out really well. Yeah, I think I have a general enthusiasm and positivity and drive that some people may see as courage, some people may see as foolishness.
If you could cast one of Harry’s spells, what would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to be able to cast a corporeal Patronus. My Patronus on Pottermore is a black swan, which I think is pretty cool. My mom’s favorite animal is a swan, which I think it’s really interesting. Harry’s was a stag, which was also his dad’s.
What has it been like rehearsing with the new cast, and what do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
Everyone is such a thoughtful, giving and seasoned actor. We have a lot of Hufflepuffs. Me and Matt [Mueller] who plays Ron, we’re Gryffindor. We’re actually roommates, so it’s good. I’ve fallen in love with everybody. It’s just a giving, kind cast, which is great especially when you’re approaching an entire year of doing the show together.