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South Jordan Journal

‘Harry Potter’ star visits Sandy to open Christmas Wizarding World Experience

Nov 19, 2018 05:17PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Oliver Phelps was full of compliments for the people and area of Sandy. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)

By Heather Lawrence | heather.lawrence@mycityjournals.com

Harry Potter fans got a special treat on Nov. 7 when Oliver Phelps, who played twin George Weasley in the movies, came to the Shops at South Town in Sandy. He was on hand for an exclusive interview with the Sandy City Journal, and later sat for an open Q&A to celebrate the opening of the Christmas in the Wizarding World shopping experience. 

Phelps was excited to do the event because he heard how well attended it was last year. “They were telling me how many people came through here last year, and it’s always a plus for us (the actors) to see that. Tonight should be good fun!” said Phelps. 

Though the 32-year-old has done several fan events over the years, he says he keeps coming back because the audiences are so amazing. He enjoys hearing stories of what role the books and films have played in people’s lives. “When you film it’s like you’re in a goldfish bowl — you don’t know how it will be received. The stories people tell me make me so glad to be involved with it,” Phelps said. 

Phelps was full of compliments for the people of Sandy, and commented that he had even been to a Real soccer game. “It’s such a cool city, especially the general public and how approachable and interested they are, which always makes my job a lot easier,” said Phelps. 

The Weasley twins famously argued about which one of them was better looking, and for those who wonder if Oliver and James have the same argument, Phelps put that issue to rest. “There’s a reason I’m here and James isn’t,” Phelps said with a smile, then clarified that in fact his brother is doing a theater show right now. 

Fans of the Harry Potter series will remember that each year Hogwarts takes a Christmas-time visit to the village of Hogsmeade. It’s that Victorian-like English village setting — complete with authentic Harry Potter merchandise and a wand shop — that the Wizarding World Experience at Shops at South Town recreated. 

“Certainly in the first film and book, Christmas is a big thing. Harry Potter has adapted itself really well because it’s quite fitting to have the snow on the rooftops and things like that. And the movies seem to always be on TV at Christmas time,” Phelps said. 

Phelps doesn’t resent the fact that he’s associated more with the Potter universe than any other professional endeavor. “It’s something I’ll never be able to hide from. The way I always think about it is, without Potter my life would be totally different,” said Phelps of his claim to fame. 

Phelps sees the Potter world continuing for many generations. “The cool thing about it is the costumes, the locations and stuff like that are all based in their own universe. Its fashions aren’t dated. And it’s a nostalgic thing now. I think it will be one of these things that always just follows on,” said Phelps.

Heather Nash is the marketing manager at South Town, and said this event is unique not just to Utah, but to the world. “We were talking with Warner Bros. about how to bring something very unique here,” Nash said. 

“We put together a proposal on ‘Why Sandy?’ and the thing that sold it was the local interest here. The Megaplex, especially Jordan Commons, was number one (in ticket sales) in the country when the first Harry Potter film came out. That told them that this is an audience that loves Harry Potter,” Nash said. 

Nash also emphasized that they wanted to put together something that would be free to the community. The Q&A was open to the public, and South Town patrons can walk through the Wizarding World set, play mini Quidditch and watch wand demonstrations free of charge now through Jan. 21.   

Phelps’s appearance brought fans from around the Salt Lake Valley like Ian, a sophomore at Bingham High. He describes himself as a “Super big Harry Potter fan,” and likes both the books and the movies. 

“I started reading the books when I was really young, and I’ve read them all a couple of times. I really like ‘Half-Blood Prince’ (book 6) and ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ (book 5). I like that they’re all rising up together against the Ministry of Magic, and in book 6 it explores what’s going to happen in the seventh (final) book,” said Ian.

He heard about the event the day before, and came early to get a coveted front-row seat. “I felt like it would be really cool to meet one of the cast members.” Fans at the hour-long Q&A weren’t disappointed. Phelps answered questions submitted by fans online. Moderator Val Cameron-Walker of the morning show at B98.7 radio had the lucky job of sitting on the stage with Phelps and asking questions. 

Phelps answered questions about his character and filming the series. He exhibited much of the same lightheartedness for which the Weasleys are famous. His answer to the question, “What similarities are there between you and your character?” was, “We’re the same height.” And about what he wishes he could do like George? “I wish I had a joke shop.”