He first shot to fame as Harry Potter’s wicked enemy Draco Malfoy, and Tom Felton isn’t done with playing the bad guy yet.
The 27 year-old actor returns to screens this January in Murder in the First, a 10-part detective drama that follows a gripping murder investigation in San Francisco. The mystery deepens when police discover that two seemingly unrelated killings have a common denominator – the arrogant Silicon Valley technology billionaire Erich Blunt.
“I don’t know why [I always play these characters] – there must be some kind of inner demon trying to get out of me! I’m not a very sinister person in real life. I just really enjoy stepping out of my own shoes and going as far opposite as possible,” said Felton.
“Eric is very un-laid back. He doesn’t have any time for people who don’t see the world the way he does. He has very little patience – I consider myself quite a tolerant, patient person and he’s the absolute opposite of that.”
Although Erich reveals himself as a cut throat figure from the outset, a plot ridden with twists and turns will keep viewers guessing as to the true villain right to the series’ end. Steve Bochco, the Emmy-award winning writer behind NYPD Blue and newcomer Eric Lodal were so secretive that even Felton was left in the dark.
“Every episode it looks like someone else was in the firing line to be guilty. We had daily sessions in the hair and make up chair trying to guess who it was. I was in complete turmoil – I had no idea whether my character was guilty or not!”
“It was a bit daunting at first. I made them promise me I was not going to end up being some kind of tranny pole dancer, which luckily, doesn’t happen!”
Out of the comfort zone
Taking on new challenges is something of a mantra for Felton, since Murder in the First is his first television role, playing a character that required a pitch-perfect Californian accent.
“Its always about challenging yourself and putting yourself out of your comfort zone – it’s often the roles that I think, ‘I’m not sure I could do that’, which end up being the most exciting. It was probably the most fun job I’ve had since Harry Potter.”
Felton hasn’t rested on his laurels since the game-changing fantasy franchise. In 2015 he will appear in Against the Sun, a true World War Two story of three US navy airmen who fight for survival on a drifting lifeboat after their bomber plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean.
He has also just finished filming Clavius, a biblical epic that explores the period after Christ’s death and resurrection. Filmed in Spain and Malta, it threw up some unexpected difficulties.
“I didn’t foresee quite how hot it was going to be, clad up in Roman garbles, 24 layers of it. I did that classic thing where I slightly polished the truth about my horsemanship before getting the part, then upon getting out there and being asked to gallop around with swords out, I slightly struggled!”
With his light brown hair, tan and stubble, Felton has changed a lot from the pale blonde Slytherin boy. Has it been difficult to ditch Draco’s legacy?
“I never really tried to. We’re all very proud of our ten year stint working on those films, it’s something I wear as a badge of honour, not something I try and hide away from. It’ll probably be with me for the rest of my life, so I think it’s better to embrace it and enjoy it.”
“Seeing how many people it’s really changed their life and changed the person they are, it’s quite touching. I’m definitely in no rush to shake that off.”
Three years on from the films, their impact has is no way diminished. JK Rowling has just released new writing on Draco Malfoy on the official fan website, Pottermore, and a Polish castle is now offering a real-life Hogwarts experience for wannabe wizards.
“When we were doing it, I suppose I didn’t really realise the scale of how widely these films have been received. Someone came up to me and said ‘thanks for being part of my childhood.’ In a weird way I feel we have sort of grown up together, even though they’ve been watching and I’ve been on the films.”
“As the years have gone on, the dawning of how lucky I was as a 12 year-old kid has really sunk in.”
The Tom Fanclub
Felton will be delving further into the world of the mega fan for a BBC3 documentary that will see him behind the camera for the first time. Billed for 2015, Tom Felton: Meet the Fanatics follows him to two of the world’s largest film cult festivals to find out why people get so attached to fantasy fiction.
“We’re very blessed, the Harry Potter family of fans is an enthusiastic bunch to say the least! Ultimately it seems to have brought a lot of passion and happiness to their lives, so it’s amazing to be part of. I don’t do any self-Googling or anything like that, so I think I’ve avoided a lot of the super crazies!”
This is wise, as Felton’s Twitter and Instagram feeds are full of adoring female fans, either applauding or envying his beautiful girlfriend Jade Olivia Gordon, whom he met on the Harry Potter set. The pair have been dating for over six years and are clearly still smitten, as he embraces her affectionately after our interview.
Perhaps it’s this constant that has helped keep Felton so grounded. Unlike his character Erich Blunt, he is strikingly modest for one so successful so young. Felton is spending Christmas enjoying “general, joyful consuming” at the East Grinstead home of one of his three older brothers, who he says are always ready to take him down a peg or two.
“I’ve had the same friends as always who couldn’t give a monkey’s about what I do. They’d rather sit and chill, watch the cricket and have a beer, which is key! My brothers still give me just as much stick as they always have.
“Keeping the people who know you for who you are around you and not buying too much into the whole world of fame is important – I avoid all that stuff.”
Murder in the First premieres on Fox on Friday 16th January at 10pm.