INTERVIEW : PAUL THORNLEY

Originally published at OK! Online.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s Paul Thornley talks Broadway move, Ron’s wand and wanting a Star Wars role

Paul Thornley may not be a household name but he’s been in plenty of people’s homes.

From BBC’s Holby City to The Crown on Netflix, the British actor’s face has popped up on TV screens in numerous shows over the last few years, before landing his critically-acclaimed role as Ron Weasley in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays.

Now Paul has taken on another well-known literary character, Black Beauty’s Merryleg, a dapple-grey pony, in Audible’s all-star dramatisation of Anna Sewell’s much-loved family classic.

Samuel West, Samantha Bond and Tamzin Outhwaite also voice characters from the best-selling children’s book about a well-born colt who ends up becomind a painfully overworked cab horse.

OK! Online caught up with Paul in London to talk about the new audio-book, Minion mania and whether he’ll be back as Ron Weasley when Cursed Child opens on Broadway…

How did you get involved in the Black Beauty audio book?

I’ve done quite a lot of audio books for Audible, and for other companies, and I presume then that they saw the script and “thought he’ll do, we know him and he can string a sentence together” so I suspect that’s how it happened!

You play Merrylegs. How does one get into character as a pony then?

I think the book was written at a time when people seemed to have more empathy for animals than their fellow human beings, and, I think particularly when that book was written, to empathise with people of a lower class was more difficult. That’s why it held such fascination for people of all classes, so I didn’t approach it like a horse, really.

So you didn’t practice your neighing then?

Actually me and Tamzin Outhwaite did quite a lot of neighing but I can’t tell you if it made its way in!

Did you have a neighing vocal coach?

Like a horse whisperer? (laughs) No, we just gave our best horse and hopefully they picked the best one!

You’ve done a lot of voice work, including Minions (he voiced a news reporter) which is just massive…

For once my daughters thought I had a proper job because I was in Minions, and we got to walk the yellow carpet which they also thought was amazing.

How does doing vocal work for an audio book compare to an animated feature?

I think with voice-overs you can just kid yourself that it’s just you, the producer and the engineer. You know, you can’t really comprehend how many people are going to watch something like Minions. The great thing about when I first auditioned for it, was that they just got you to come and do as many silly, stupid voices you could possibly think of, and mercifully, they used a few.

So the next logical step would be to voice a robot in Star Wars…

Yeah a robot, yeah, I’ll put a bid in now!

Merrylegs is the second popular literary character you’ve played after, of course, Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays. Did you feel more pressure to do them justice than other roles?

I certainly felt the expectation when playing Ron. JK Rowling said to me “you do know that Ron Weasley is a lot of people’s favourite character?” and I was like “oh, brilliant!” Obviously there was huge expectation from the play and they protected us from most of it and you can’t help but see it, but it seemed to go down pretty well.

How did it feel to go from lots of bit-part to probably one of the most high profile roles in theatre?

It’s been an amazing year and a bit, and it’s gone better than we could have expected. Finally I’ve got a bit of currency in the playground and my kids think I’m doing a proper job. Ron Weasley and being in the Minions, as far as they’re concerned, is all they could’ve hoped I’d do. 

Has it opened up more doors for you?

I’m a bit older now and it’s like any job really, if you do a half-decent job for someone they’ll ask you back and that seems to happen [in acting] if you stick around long enough. What happens next I have no idea, but hopefully there will be more opportunities.

So anything you can tell us about?

I don’t have anything specific but there are a few irons in the fire, but at the moment I’m unemployed come the twentieth of May.

So what souvenirs will you be taken from your time in the Cursed Child plays?

I do want to nick my wand but I know I won’t get away with it. There’s this little guy from Surrey somewhere who individually whittles our wands. It’s beautiful what he’s done with my wand but I’ll have to hand it over. I’d love to [steal it], but they’d know it was me.

And what about heading across the pond to do the Broadway version of the plays?

I have no idea, we’ll see what happens.

Fingers crossed you do then?

Yeah, fingers crossed.

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