Extended transcript: J. K. Rowling and the creative team behind "Cursed Child"

Source:   —  September 24, 2017, at 11:33 AM

K. Rowling for "Sun Morning" back in one thousand nine hundred ninety-ninth, talked with Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, all three of whom collaborated on the legend of the stage production, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child." A continuation of the legend of Potter, presently an adult and parent, the play (presented in two parts) has been the theatrical event of the year in London, where it won a record nine Olivier Awards (Britain'south version of the Tonys).

Extended transcript: J. K. Rowling and the creative team behind

In this extended interview transcript, correspondent Label Phillips, who first profiled author J. K. Rowling for "Sun Morning" back in one thousand nine hundred ninety-ninth, talked with Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, all three of whom collaborated on the legend of the stage production, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child." A continuation of the legend of Potter, presently an adult and parent, the play (presented in two parts) has been the theatrical event of the year in London, where it won a record nine Olivier Awards (Britain'south version of the Tonys). The indicate is presently headed to Broadway; tickets go on sale next month.

label PHILLIPS: It should seem love another life. Or does it?

J. K. ROWLING: It does and it doesn't. When I recollect us on the train, that seems love about six months ago. But then when I draw out a tiny bit, and think of everything that'south happened since, you know, in my personal life as well, suddenly I realize, no, I've grown two more human beings in that time.

tag PHILLIPS: And what, four more books?

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah. Well, four, five, six, seven, eight books. Collaborated on a play and written two screenplays. Yeah. So when you see at that, you think, yeah, that'south definitely not six months.

tag PHILLIPS: I'm tempted to start by asking kind of a Mrs. Merton-y question which is, what's it about the prospect of earning millions of pounds from bringing Harry Potter to the stage that most appealed to you?

J. K. ROWLING: Michael Jackson wanted me to go to Neverland and speak about a musical Harry Potter. And I didn't wish to do it. No, I genuinely didn't wish Harry to go onstage. I didn't wish a musical. I felt that I was done.

label PHILLIPS: With Harry?

J. K. ROWLING: I think I felt, if ever I perceive really inspired, absolutely I'll go back into that world. I'd always said never declare never, because I knew that Warner Brothers wanted to do something with "Great Beasts," and I did have kind of a yen to do that.

But you know, I was in number hurry. And the truth is that it wasn't until Sonia Friedman came to look me to speak to me about the opportunity of doing something onstage that I started to think, "Okay, what you're proposing is something that I could be creatively excited about." Because to reply your question equally directly, we all know I don't necessity the money. Life is too short. I only wish to do things that I enjoy, or that I think are excellent or worth doing.

label PHILLIPS: But aside from Michael Jackson, specifically about the idea of bringing it to the stage -- this is something that we all know that famously emerged fully formed out of your mind, and that became the books, and that -- no?

J. K. ROWLING: No. People have running with that a small bit. I've also said it'd be quite a stretch to claim that the whole seven-book series came fully formed into my mind. The premise of a boy who didn't know he was a wizard and went to wizarding school, that did arrive into my mind in its wholeness, yes.

label PHILLIPS: Right. And famously you'd written the latest chapter before you wrote the others.

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah, I did write that chapter early on, yeah.

tag PHILLIPS: But what did theatre keep for you as a prospect? Was it just the challenge of making those ideas work live instead of in the imagination or with the assistance of film that you found attractive?

J. K. ROWLING: If I'm honest, it was the prospect of working with these guys. Because Sonia and Colin , our producers, were offering me the chance to work with two people that I thought were extraordinary. And I felt confident from our first meeting that we could create something really special happen.

Now, I could've been wrong. We still have had a enormous quantity of fun doing it, because we ended up very excellent friends, and that'south an incredible thing to get two very excellent friends for, out of a creative process love this. But it so happens that three of us worked very, very well together, and I think we produced something we're all very pleased of.

label PHILLIPS: Was it the idea of carrying the legend forward? I know the sword is hanging over our heads to speak about the plot, so we won't, but the idea of taking the legend forward, generations forward, was that something that appealed to you? Is that portion of the challenge that you felt intellectually?

J. K. ROWLING: Well, I've said publicly before presently that the character that I was most interested in going forward was the character of Albus Dumbledore. And he was certainly the character I'd thought most about. The son who clearly, you see in the very latest chapter of the series, is off to Hogwarts with a sense of being burdened by his family history. That was our starting point, yeah.

We'd like to defend as much of the stagecraft as we can, because we'd love audiences to have the experience that so many people in London have been able to have. So that'south why we don't wish to over-share.

label PHILLIPS: Right. We're all sworn to secrecy up to a point. I know we're sitting here below penalty of excommunication if we speak about the plot, but what can you tell us? It'south the continuation of the finish of the latest book?

JACK THORNE: I'm not taking this one. (LAUGHTER)

JOHN TIFFANY: The first scene of our play is the latest chapter of "Deathly Hallows," so we look Harry and Ginny and Albus, Harry'south center son, at King'south Cross, as well as Ron and Hermione and their daughter Rose. And as in the latest chapter, also the Malfoys are around somewhere, aren't they, as well. And they're sending Albus and Rose to their first day at Hogwarts.

James is the older brother, Harry and Ginny'south first son. He'south already been at Hogwarts. But we look Albus. Albus, being the character that, as Jo was saying earlier, she was most interested in, because he'south called Albus Severus, he'south named after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, two of the kind of most loved characters from the books.

JACK THORNE: And the most complicated.

J. K. ROWLING: And the most hated, as well. Yeah.

JOHN TIFFANY: Whereas James, kind of as the grandfather'south namesake, has kind of breezed through his time at Hogwarts, Albus, it'south kind of suggested very beautifully, isn't gonna have as simple a time. So, it'south all there for the kind of taking. So, that'south the first scene. We then leap forward four years, and meet them again at the beginning of fourth year.

JOHN TIFFANY: And that'south where the legend really starts to running and get shape and things obtain very complicated, very quickly.

label PHILLIPS: You know, spells can happen in movies. The spells can happen in the books. But making spells happen onstage is a whole 'nother thing, as they say.

JOHN TIFFANY: Yeah, I mean, I was approached by Sonia and Colin, and they told me that they'd been to meet with Jo, and Jo had given them the okay to move forward with the idea of putting Harry onstage and exploring the adult Harry, and specifically looking at what happened to somebody who'd had the childhood that Harry had, and how he then became a parent, a father himself.

I mean, I'd loved the books and the films, and was a enormous fan of Jo's, and had read them to my godchildren and my nephews, and had seen the absolute power that they'd to transport kids and to give kids a sense of belonging, in lots of ways. And also, I'd started my kinda working life in Edinburgh, which is where Jo was at the time.

J. K. ROWLING: And we met.

label PHILLIPS: Did you know each other there?

JOHN TIFFANY: I was an helper director at the Traverse Theatre, yeah.

J. K. ROWLING: Which had a brilliant cafe where I used to write. And he was in there. And when we met formally to do this project and to examine whether we're going to do this project, I thought he looked awfully familiar. And turns out we'd met years and years before in Edinburgh. That was, yeah, pre-publication.

JOHN TIFFANY: Yeah, Jo had been there with her pram, nursing a cappuccino.

label PHILLIPS: You didn't know she was gonna be JK at that point.

JOHN TIFFANY: No, it was only a year later.

J. K. ROWLING: No, he was very sweet to me, though. Let me sit there for ages with coffee.

JOHN TIFFANY: Yeah, you kept saying, "Do you mind if I stay here?" And I was like, "Absolutely not." You were writing away. And then a year later, "Philosopher'south Stone" came out. And then she wasn't in the cafe much after that. You weren't anywhere much after that, were you?

J. K. ROWLING: Well, I was still in cafes 'till I got hounded out.

JOHN TIFFANY: So when I was approached by Sonia and Colin, I thought, "Wow, this is quite an ask, in a way. It'south so loved." And also, that world has been so beautifully explored in film, visually. But at the same time, there was a tiny thing in my head, I was very, very excited about the prospect of how we could utilize theatricality to tell these stories.

That a legend of cloaks and suitcases and sleight of hand potentially could sit very beautifully onstage, I hoped. And I knew that if we did move forward with this, that a enormous no of our audience would be first-time theatregoers, and this was an opportunity to indicate them theatre.

label PHILLIPS: But was portion of that expectation also frightening? I'd have thought it'd be. Because these kids would've seen the movies where the sleight of hands and the execution of the spells and the flying and everything else was very vividly portrayed.

J. K. ROWLING: I'd total faith that John could do something amazing. But I think at this point in my life, I can't look the point in doing something that isn't a bit frightening. You know, it'd be very simple just to do the same thing -- people love it, just hold doing the same thing until they stop liking it. And I'm only really interested in doing things that I discover satisfying or exciting or challenging. The bar'south always going to be very high now.

tag PHILLIPS: You're raising the bar yourself, is what you're saying.

J. K. ROWLING: Well, there are risks attendant on that. But then you don't obtain the creative satisfaction unless you've taken a risk. Of course there were going to be people who didn't love what we were doing, were upset. When you've a fandom love Potter's, they're passionate, and it'south a beautiful, pretty thing.

With that comes very high expectations, and sometimes people don't love what you're going to do. I cannot tell you how much I loved doing this. I loved it from start to finish. And I'm really pleased of what John'south just said about bringing first-time theatergoers into the theatre through Potter. We know sixty percent of our audiences have never been to a play before. And we also know that fifteen percent then go on and book other shows. It was about saying to youthful people particularly, "This isn't an alien space view." All three of us were educated in the state system. We don't arrive from naturally theatergoing families. And we felt passionately, this is a way of taking what's frequently perceived as an elite space, the theatre -- how do you dress? How do you behave? Live theatre is rather scary -- and bursting it open for everyone. We went into it very much with that ethos, didn't we?

JOHN THORNE: Very much, yeah.

tag PHILLIPS: What does this play seat? one.200 people or something love that. Compared to the mass media element that the books and the films have, this is still a tiny space and a tiny target. Did that figure in converting this from the ideas into a stage play?

JOHN TIFFANY: Well, you know, that'south what theatre is. Theatre is a grouping of people who sit down and look a legend told by actors. We knew that there'd be a enormous demand for tickets, because of the Potter fandom. But we also knew that, were it to be successful, we'd then very quickly see at taking the indicate to other countries, as we're presently talking about bringing it to Broadway, which we're so excited about, aren't we?

J. K. ROWLING: We really are.

JOHN TIFFANY: As we progressed with the ideas for the story, and the three of us kind of met and started talking about, you know, what legend "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" was going to tell, it became clear to me that we were gonna be doing something quite unique, in that we were taking a grouping of characters that an audience had seen through seven books and eight films, and we were going to tell a new legend featuring those characters. And so it'south been such an honor, hasn't it, sitting in the audience from the very, very first performances, seeing the people arrive in, knowing these characters and yet not knowing what was going to happen to them. And the gasps! It'south precisely why I went into theatre and became a theatre director -- you wish people to gasp and coo and be unified as an audience together watching the story. And that'south been a joy.

J. K. ROWLING: No, it's amazing.

label PHILLIPS: Did you actually have a fear, though, that they mightn't love it?

J. K. ROWLING: Of course. Excellent lord. Of course. I don't think any sort of creative person alive wouldn't realize how we all felt going into that first preview. I think we three, do you agree? We felt we'd made it as excellent as we could create it. We were pleased of it. We thought we'd done a excellent job. But, you know, that'south three of us.

And there'south something about theatre, because it'south a visceral experience. And I was sitting up there in a box to look one of those very early previews. And the atmosphere was--

JACK THORNE: Ridiculous.

J. K. ROWLING: Wasn't it?

tag PHILLIPS: But the wt of expectation, I would've thought--

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah, exactly. It'south the wt of expectation. You know that people are coming in with a enormous no of preconceived ideas. You know that candidly, some people are taking the view, "Maybe they've just dialed this in. Maybe they're just trying to obtain a small additional out the franchise." And we knew it was something very new and different. But the proof is when the audience sees it.

And in all honesty, I think we perceive the same way about going to Broadway. We're not going off to Broadway feeling, "Oh, this'll be in any way an easy ride." We're going off to Broadway very much thinking, "Okay, well, let'south look how this does." You just don't know. There are number certainties. You get nothing for granted. It'south Broadway, you know? We have, I think, quite a healthy sense of fear.

tag PHILLIPS: Has there ever been a point where you felt your audience, your public rebel against what you were doing?

J. K. ROWLING: Oh god, yeah.

tag PHILLIPS: There has been?

J. K. ROWLING: Arrive on. This is the age of social media. You think I don't obtain told in number uncertain terms that I've done the thing they didn't wish to happen to a character, or why on Earth am I taking it into theatre? No, believe you, in the age of social media, one is never deluded about the fact that some people aren't happy, expect not to be happy. That'south the way it goes.

tag PHILLIPS: Do you care what the public says?

J. K. ROWLING: Do I care? Do you know, I'm going to be very honest. Yes, I do. And no, I don't.

So yes, I do. Of course I do. For me, I always go back to readers. So the fact that people love the books, and the movies as well, and that those stories meant so much to so many people, that's everything to me. Number writer is gonna tell you differently. I've phenomenal like and respect for those people. Forget the material side; they gave me a sense of belonging, actually, and purpose that I'm not sure I'd had before. Because it turned out I could tell a story. That'south all I'd ever wanted to do in my life. And they, in their enthusiasm, gave me that. So yes, I care hugely.

On the "no, I don't" side, I think as a writer or any kind of creative person, you actually do have to keep tight to your vision. And ultimately you've to be able to look in the mirror and say, "Did I do that for the right reasons? Did I do it to the best of my ability? Am I pleased with the result?"

label PHILLIPS: Because you were afraid you could be pandering?

J. K. ROWLING: Well, I know I'm never gonna pander. I know, genuinely, I know full well, I've Ltd time left on this Earth. I've number interest whatsoever in doing certain things that I know would be very favorite with the fandom. And I think the fandom watching this will know precisely what I mean, 'cause they know what they hold asking me for. But there'south nothing there for me creatively, even know I know they'd all buy it.

label PHILLIPS: Can I ask what --

J. K. ROWLING: I'm not even gonna go there.

tag PHILLIPS: -- are they asking for? Come on.

J. K. ROWLING: I'm not going there. I'm not going there. No. I'm not saying that. Because my Twitter feed will be a space of hell for three months if I declare it, so I'm not gonna declare it. But there are certain things that I know I could write, and just, we'd sell millions. It's to excite me, and it doesn't excite me. So yes. Do I care? Yes, passionately, and no, because ultimately I've gotta do what feeds me.

tag PHILLIPS: Are the mechanics of writing Potter for the theatre different than either the books or the screenplays?

JACK THORNE: Yes. And just to declare in relation to your previous question, I'm a fan of the books. A ridiculous fan of the books. And I'd consider myself a Potterhead. And in terms of the question that you're not answering about what the fans would like to --

J. K. ROWLING: Sh. Sh. Don't declare it. Don't say--

JACK THORNE: You know, there'south a portion of me that goes, "Oh, please."

J. K. ROWLING: Oh please, no.

JACK THORNE: And that made it even more terrifying from my perspective, because if you're the person that's seen to ruin Harry Potter, then the self-hatred is overwhelming. But in terms of the mechanics of writing it for the stage, yes, to some degree. I've worked with John a enormous no of times. And our way of working has always been write it and we'll try it.

And so I didn't write going, "Okay, I'm constrained by a stage." I wrote going, "I'm not constrained, because John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett are waiting at the finish of this journey. And if I write magic into a script, they'll attempt and discover a way to create it work." I think you only have one rule.

label PHILLIPS: What was the rule?

JOHN TIFFANY: A certain game that appears in the Harry Potter world. I was like, "I'm not doing that."

J. K. ROWLING: "I'm not doing that." I was so okay with you not doing that.

tag PHILLIPS: You're not gonna fly the kids? Okay.

JOHN TIFFANY: Yeah, you were very relieved, I remember.

J. K. ROWLING: I was genuinely relieved.

label PHILLIPS: I was a bit relieved that didn't happen.

JACK THORNE: But other than that, it was number holds barred, go for it. And there'south obviously different ways you write plays to writing screenplays in terms of length of scenes and all sorts of boring things love that. But I think we were determined right from the beginning not to be constrained by the fact that this is our space.

And John'south line all the way through it was, "The films have special effects. We've the collective imagination of our audience. So if we can create something that takes them on this journey, they'll go with us." And that'south the most exciting thing. You know, I was back seeing it a couple of weeks ago. Just sat in the audience on my own, and just that experience of sitting beside two people for that length of time, neither of whom I know, and going on this massive journey with them, I always discover it thrilling and always exciting and tremendous, really.

label PHILLIPS: I was gonna ask a question about how the collective narrative came to be. And I'll just keep on for a minute. You used the phrase, "That length of time." It'south a lot of time.

JACK THORNE: Yes. You spend the day with us. And that'south kind of wonderful.

tag PHILLIPS: It seems love an entire, I don't know, mini-break weekend, somebody said.

JACK THORNE: And it came about because we worked on this document together which I wrote up, which was our collective thoughts as to what this legend should be. And we sat down at the finish of that and went, "This is a really long document." And the pretty things about the books is you spend so much time with them doing normal things, like the role that food plays in those books; you share these feasts with them all the way through it.

And we could've raced through and tried to cram as much plot as possible into a two-and-a-half-hour theatrical experience. But it wouldn't have done justice to the legend we wanted to tell, and it wouldn't have done justice to Harry Potter. And wouldn't have given us any chance to spend time with the characters, and spend time with where they're all at and why they're there.

tag PHILLIPS: But is it possible to give Potter fans too much? Or will they suck up anything that you lay on to them -- why stop at two performances? Coulda gone on for a week.

J. K. ROWLING: Just because -- she spoke love a mother -- just because people wish a lot doesn't imply they should've everything that they want. We'll just give them what'south excellent for them. And we decided that this was. And it is, you're absolutely right.

label PHILLIPS: Long as they finish what'south on their plates.

J. K. ROWLING: There you go. It is. It'south a lot. It'south a long time to ask particularly a younger audience member to sit. And I'm very, very, very pleased to declare they all arrive back in for portion two looking enthusiastic and excited.

JOHN TIFFANY: When we'd the idea for how we knew the first half was going to finish, which obviously we won't say, it kind of became clear that it was telling us, "This is gonna be longer than two-and-a-half hours. This is gonna be a two-part event." And you know, I've had incredible experiences in theatre where you go longer than what people think is an appropriate time. And you go into a different time and space. And the audience seemed to kind of love doing that. Number one seems to be saying to us that this is too long.

And novels, they tell their legend over X no of pages. But theatre really kind of needs much longer to tell that kind of similar story. So we knew that we were gonna have to spread it out over longer. And Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender, our producers, were incredibly encouraging of that. Even though for them, it was going to create their work much harder in terms of selling two parts--

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah, logistically it was hard.

JOHN TIFFANY: Well, in terms of the box office.

JACK THORNE: And we'd to rehearse two plays. And so everything took double the quantity of time.

label PHILLIPS: The ideas for the books came from you. The ideas for the movies came from the books. This was extending the legend into the future. Who did that? Which of the three of you was most responsible for the storyline as it weaves its way into the future?

J. K. ROWLING: The developing the story, I think, was very collaborative between the three of us. I, for obvious reasons, had power of reject over everything. I could say, "No, that didn't happen." But no, it was the three of us. But the play is Jack'south play. Jack did the writing. Jack did the heavy lifting. And he did it beautifully. And I couldn't be happier.

label PHILLIPS: But you retained power, just as you did in the movies, power of reject just because you perceive you still own the Potter character.

J. K. ROWLING: It wasn't really a question of ownership. I know this is gonna sound very bizarre. I know it'south right when I've a sensation of, "Oh yeah, of course, that happened." And that when the three of us were kicking that around, one of these guys would say, "Well, how about--" and I'd have that feeling, "Oh yeah, of course, that'south what happened." I just knew.

And sometimes it'd be me saying, "I think this happened." And unsurprisingly with my own ideas, I definitely thought they were probably what happened. But often, we'd be sitting there and trying to finesse something, and one of these guys would say, and I'd know, "Yeah, that'south how it happened." It felt love excavation, which is how I know that I'm on the right track, when I perceive that I'm actually uncovering a legend that'south already there.

tag PHILLIPS: Which is what you've always said about this story.

J. K. ROWLING: Exactly. And I'd precisely the same experience. It was one of the most joyful experiences of my life, working with these two. I absolutely loved it from beginning to end.

label PHILLIPS: Just because you could share the burden? Or because it'south a relationship?

J. K. ROWLING: Not even that, because you know, I'm writing screenplays now, and obviously that'south a much more collaborative process than novel writing. But there was something very special about being in this space, in a theatre, and working together. And you've spoken, Jack, about Paul Thornley'south performance and being Ron.


J. K. ROWLING: And you said you felt that he partly helped write that character for you.

JACK THORNE: Absolutely. We then spent six months in a room with a grouping of actors, and that'south one of the pretty things about theatre, that you obtain to spend time with the people that are putting it on. And so therefore when you're creating these works, everyone feeds in. Christine Jones, our designer. Steven, the choreographer. You know, everyone had a role to play in how this legend was told.

I always say, John and Steven and I made something else together, and the annoying thing about it was my favorite scenes were always the bits that Steven did, not the bits that I did. And there'south a bit in the second half of portion one -- can I declare what it'south called? Or does that spoil anything?

label PHILLIPS: You're gonna have to work this out for yourselves.

JOHN TIFFANY: You can characterize what it'south about.

JACK THORNE: Yeah, it's about the two boys and they're struggling with each other, and they're struggling with where they're in their relationship.

label PHILLIPS: Okay. We can declare they fall out.

JACK THORNE: Yeah. And there'south this beautiful, it'south called a staircase dance. And I'd written words for that sequence, and I think it was about halfway through the rehearsal process, I think you said to me, "Steven'south told that legend distant better than you will. So we can lose the words here." And again, it'south my favorite moment in the play. So Steven did it to me again, in terms of just stealing. So I sit there every time looking forward to his bits, rather than my bits. Which is lovely, but sad.

JOHN TIFFANY: But it was incredible just how much was seeded there in "nineteen Years Later," which is the latest chapter of "Deathly Hallows." And we've just gone past that date itself, the first of September, two thousand seventeen, which was amazing. We'd an incredible celebration in the theatre. Normally we have forty tickets every week of some of the best seats in the house, very cheap. And this was a Friday -- four hundred we had, so there were four hundred people who were there, lots of people dressed in Hogwarts costumes.

tag PHILLIPS: So we're presently in history--

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah, exactly. But there was one shining night when the people were actually watching the action happen on the day it really happened.

label PHILLIPS: Has this whole thing reached cult status?

JOHN THORNE: What'south a cult?

label PHILLIPS: Has it gone beyond children'south literature, or even literature -- the audience the afternoon and night that I was here, were in a kind of state of almost, I'd say, quiet rapture during this thing. There are very few, as I'd have anticipated there would've been, outbursts during the course of it. The audience sits and watches, as if it'south listening to a sermon or waiting for the answers to questions it's or something love that. Has it gone beyond even literature into some broader cultural congregation somehow?

J. K. ROWLING: I think when I meet people who are in their twenty, you know, they really grew up with the books. It'south that generation to whom the books imply something more than stories. That'south definitely true. And I know this because I meet them and we talk. It'south a privilege, an absolute privilege. I'm grateful and I'm astounded and I'm moved by stories people tell me about, you know, "That got me through my parents' divorce." Or illness. "I was laid up in bed for six months. I listened to all the audio books."

And it'south a turbulent time in your life. People became very connected to Potter throughout their adolescence. They lived these stories at a time when Harry, Ron and Hermione were going through adolescence. And I empathize with that. Although, I think the things that matter to you then will always be among the things that matter to you most; it'south that time of life. They imprint on you. They're portion of you. I've had that experience with certain things and certain people in my adolescence, so I realize it. I think that'south where it comes from.

tag PHILLIPS: But are the people who presently arrive to the theatre here, or that you foresee coming to the theatre on Broadway, are they the same people? Or are they the children of the same people?

J. K. ROWLING: Both. I sit in a box, there'south a box up there that'south never sold to the public because you can look behind the scenery and look how things are being done.

tag PHILLIPS: Look the tricks.

J. K. ROWLING: So doesn't matter if I sit up there, 'cause I know how it'south all done anyway. I've seen the play about ten times now, and I'm always sitting up there. And you've got an incredible view of the audience. And you look whole families. Sometimes you can tell which ones did grow up with the books, can't you? So you might've some 20-somethings in there, but you've got small kids and you've got their grandparents who may have read them first time circular to them. And that'south the most beautiful thing to see.

tag PHILLIPS: But have the books maintained their grip on newer generations coming through? I'd kids who were in that first wave of Potterphiles, and still are. Are the kids of the age who read the books when they first came out who are presently that age reading the books again?

J. K. ROWLING: I obviously can't speak for all of them. I know it'south happening, because again, I meet people who tell me so. So I think that the Potter generation certainly wish to read those books to their own kids. That's happening a lot.

JACK THORNE: My nephew is ten, and he'south an absolute obsessive about it.

tag PHILLIPS: Well, the question is, I guess, whether they've stood the test of time. They were certainly a cultural phenomenon over the course of the seven waves that went through.

J. K. ROWLING: They were. And that time won't arrive again. Of course it won't arrive again, because you'd the books and you'd the movies coming out. And it did become something enormous that was sometimes -- for the originator -- quite an uncomfortable experience.

tag PHILLIPS: How?

J. K. ROWLING: Because it was overwhelming. Because it was crazy. I kept thinking, "Right, this is it. Presently we're done. We've peaked." And then it'd obtain bigger.

label PHILLIPS: Even during the course of the publication of the seven books you thought, "This can't go on, this is nuts"?

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah, I did, yeah. Nothing can prepare you for being in the center of that kind of situation. There'south number training manual that explains to you what that'south like. And children'south authors don't generally experience that. That wasn't what I saw coming.

label PHILLIPS: That'south just what I was gonna bring up, 'cause--

J. K. ROWLING: And listen, I don't wish to be ungrateful. Let me just shoo that in.

tag PHILLIPS: It'south not love you're saying it'south a bad thing.

J. K. ROWLING: I'm not sitting here whining in the slightest. What an incredible problem to have! But I'm just being very honest. At times it was incredibly overwhelming.

label PHILLIPS: But also, you didn't foresee it. I recollect that time that we talked after the third novel, you were saying every baby author you knew had another job maintain their habit. And I suppose you were at the point where you didn't necessity the other --

J. K. ROWLING: When we spoke in one thousand nine hundred ninety-ninth, I'd been teaching still the previous year. Yeah. I taught till 'ninety-eight. And in 'ninety-eight I think I said to myself, "I can probably afford to get a year out." Not because I genuinely could afford that, but because the direction of travel seemed to be that I might be able to hold the mortgage going. Yeah.

label PHILLIPS: Because you were making sufficient money at the time.

J. K. ROWLING: Well, not even that. I felt, "I can probably afford to get a year out and look if I can hold paying the mortgage. But I don't wish to tell myself I'm gonna be out for more than a year," because otherwise you start not being able to obtain the teaching jobs again. I couldn't afford to be out the game too long, see?

tag PHILLIPS: Yeah, you didn't wish to quit the day job.

J. K. ROWLING: And I'd a kid to support, yeah. If it'd been me alone I'd have starved in a garret quite happily.

JACK THORNE: How did it modify writing the series? 'Cause if you're working during the day, I mean, I've got a lot of writer friends and we discuss this all the time. If you've got a structure to your day, which is, "I work, and then I've got, like, two hours of writing," did it not modify enormously? And the pressure on yourself when you haven't got something else to do with your day, it can be enormous, right?

J. K. ROWLING: Oh god, no, I loved it.

JACK THORNE: Right, okay. So it felt love freedom?

J. K. ROWLING: Completely.

JACK THORNE: Right, right.

J. K. ROWLING: In 'ninety-eight, I was doing supply teaching . So I wasn't teaching every single day.

JACK THORNE: Right, okay.

J. K. ROWLING: And then when I decided, "Okay, I'm gonna stop for a bit and look how I go, but I can't afford to be out of the teaching game too long," I've never had a problem with just filling the day with writing. It'south love gas; it'll widen to fill the available space.

tag PHILLIPS: Was there a point where you realized, "My whole life is different than I thought it was going to be"? "There are horses pulling this carriage that I number longer had complete control of"?

J. K. ROWLING: I think that'south been my whole life, actually! (LAUGH) I don't think there was ever a point where I felt wholly in control. Yes, with Potter, there probably was, around about the time I met you. And the two things aren't connected.


J. K. ROWLING: So about 'ninety-nine, I think it was starting to dawn on me that this wasn't going to go away. And again, that sounds very ungrateful. I didn't wish the books not to sell. I was so pleased presently being able to work fulltime. Funnily enough, "Azkaban" was one of the most enjoyable to write because the pressure was really off me. We didn't yet have loads of money but I knew I could pay the bills. I knew I didn't have to rush back to teaching, and we'd managed to purchase our own house, which was quite a modest house in the center of Edinburgh, but it was ours. And I'd never owned a house before. So around about "Azkaban," I recollect thinking, "Okay, okay. Let'south stop. Get stock. It'south okay. We can handle this." And then everything went mad, because then the movies started. And "Goblet of Fire," I recollect as being absolutely insane. Around about two thousand, everything went to a bigger, more crazy level.

tag PHILLIPS: That was the point at which the kids started lining up overnight the night before to purchase the books?

J. K. ROWLING: They'd done it a small bit with "Azkaban," but it hadn't yet really got crazy. So, I think it was around about two thousand, I definitely did feel, "I didn't look this coming. This has presently got crazy."

tag PHILLIPS: I mean, a lot'south happened in your life, obviously, since then, on a personal level. Because it became so big, did you've trouble with the balance at any point? Or did the independence that the success gave you authorize you to be more yourself over the latter half of the whole "Potter" thing, in terms of the publications?

J. K. ROWLING: This is actually taking us right back into the territory of the play. (laughs) Because this is Harry Potter grappling with –

label PHILLIPS: You become your character? (LAUGHS)

J. K. ROWLING: Well, he'south going through some stuff in a grappling-with-the-past kind of way.

JACK THORNE: One of our questions at the start of the whole process was, "What'd it be love to be Nelson Mandela'south child?"

J. K. ROWLING: Well, and my kids definitely don't perceive love Nelson Mandela'south (LAUGHS) children. Let'south just be clear on that one! Just wish to keep that down.

tag PHILLIPS: A well-known person'south baby or something?

JACK THORNE: Well, not just a well-known person, but somebody who'south saved the world. Which is different from just being a famous. So, Harry is seen as a savior, so to be the baby of that person, and then trying to create your own way in the world.

J. K. ROWLING: I think I personally perceive quite liberated right now. I like doing things that frighten me. I perceive as though for a long time, I hid from it to an extent. And presently I just wish to be me, and I wish to do the things that I wish to do. Harry, in some ways, is the negative image of that. He'south never been allowed to hide. And in our play, we look him trying to discover private space.

tag PHILLIPS: So it'south challenging to speak about when you're not allowed to speak about (LAUGHS).

J. K. ROWLING: Well, you can speak about the themes, though.

label PHILLIPS: All right. One of the themes was, and again, harking back to the other conversation at the time, I recollect you said, "There's never been a kid who didn't see at their parents and think, 'How did I happen to have these parents?'"

J. K. ROWLING: Uh-huh.

tag PHILLIPS: And there'south some of that in this, as well?

J. K. ROWLING: Oh, God. Huge. That'south central. Jack wrote this brilliant line about, "We think parenting is the hardest job, but we've forgotten, growing up is the hardest job." And during the writing of the play, Jack became a father for the first time. (LAUGHS) Do we still believe that, Jack?

JACK THORNE: I don't know. (LAUGHS)

J. K. ROWLING: I thought it was such a genius line, because I think there'south so much truth in it. And portion of the reason parenting'south tough is, what do you recollect and what have you forgotten about growing up.

JACK THORNE: And I spend my all life, at the moment, petrified of what he'south going to be love when he's fifteen. Because I was such a horrible 15-year-old. And so I'm just wary of giving him the burden of me. (LAUGHS)

J. K. ROWLING: This is so the play.

JACK THORNE: Exactly, exactly. But you know, the play boiled down to its essence is how does someone who didn't have a dad memorise how to be a dad?

JOHN TIFFANY: Or parents.

JACK THORNE: Yes. Yes. Yeah.

JOHN TIFFANY: Yeah, and one of the lovely experiences has been meeting the audiences and the people that are discovering Jo'south work for the first time and the world of Harry, and the ones that were eleven when the first book came out kind of lived through all those years with Harry and Ron and Hermione. And it'south a genuine honor. I mean, I don't know any 11-year-old, however pleased you are, who doesn't kind of think you're leading the incorrect life and that you're waiting for an owl to come with a letter to say, "We're really sorry about this. You're leading the incorrect life. (LAUGHS) You really necessity to be going to this school up in Scotland and memorise to be a wizard," and then you go, and you discover your community, you discover your people.

What I've realized is that people cleave to these characters and to this world, and it becomes portion of their emotional life.


JOHN TIFFANY: And a way to obtain by, and it doesn't imply to declare that they're kind of depressed or miserable with their families, et cetera. It'south just that growing up is really, really hard. And we got to get those characters into adulthood.

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah.

JOHN TIFFANY: And then look an audience arrive and experience that, and it'south been an absolute joy. And we can't wait to kind of go on the following journey of that, which is to bring the indicate to New York.

label PHILLIPS: And does the journey go on beyond that? Is this the finish of it?

J. K. ROWLING: There won't be an -- I mean, (LAUGHS) no. This is it. Harry won't be in any other play. This is it. "Cursed Child" is it. I couldn't perceive happier about it. We couldn't duplicate this. Nothing could ever match up. If number one else loves it after this, we loved it, didn't we? We loved it. (LAUGHS)

label PHILLIPS: You'd a grand time?

J. K. ROWLING: We'd an incredible time, yeah.

tag PHILLIPS: But this isn't the beginning of a whole 'nother thing?

J. K. ROWLING: Harry'south legend now, I'm done. I'm done. I needed to be persuaded to do "nineteen years on," and I'm really happy I was persuaded, because I'm so proud of this play. But no, we're not going to look Albus' son go to Hogwarts. Well, not on my watch. (LAUGHS) In one-hundredth years time, I'll arrive and haunt the person who does it.

But if we're welcome, we'd love to get this multiple places, because we know that there are people in quite far-flung places who are saying, "I can't obtain there. I can't obtain to London." So we'd love to indicate it to as many people as possible, yeah.

tag PHILLIPS: You declare you can't live without the challenge? You're not interested unless there is a challenge?

J. K. ROWLING: Uh-huh.

label PHILLIPS: And you've done other stuff since Harry? I wish to speak about that briefly, if you can. There'south a kind of fascinating irony in your career, that you famously selected to be known by your initials, so that you weren't thought of as a woman writer in the early stages?

J. K. ROWLING: Well, I've said, that was actually my publisher'south preference. And I was so grateful to be published, they could've called me Prince. (LAUGHS) I mean, they could've called me whatever they wanted and I'd have gone, "yeah. Fine. Whatever, just publish the book."

label PHILLIPS: And who knows what effect changing the title or using the initials –

J. K. ROWLING: Well, actually, in retrospect, I don't think it made any disagreement whatsoever, because within about three months of publication I won an award and I'm in the newspapers. And from then on, I don't think ever once have I met someone who said, "I thought you were a man." So, anyway. But I don't mind. I quite love being JK.

label PHILLIPS: All right, but lately, you did write as a man?

J. K. ROWLING: I did. I have. I do.

tag PHILLIPS: So, what'south with that?

J. K. ROWLING: Well, with the Robert Galbraith books, I wanted to go back to the beginning, and I'd an idea for a series, having said I'd never do another series. So, that was a filthy lie. (LAUGHS) But I always wanted to write detective novels. And I wanted to go back to the beginning, and I wanted to send it out as an unsolicited manuscript, and I wanted to obtain honest feedback, and I wanted to go through that whole process again, and so I did.

label PHILLIPS: Why?

J. K. ROWLING: You know, because I'm not stupid. (LAUGHS) I'm fully alert that I could write a really rubbish detective legend and people would probably say, "Well, you know, it'll probably sell a few copies 'cause it'south got her title on it," and that'south not what I wanted to do. I wanted to really earn it. So, yeah. So, that'south what I did. And it was great.

tag PHILLIPS: It wasn't as if you'd any doubts as to whether you could write? I think the jury'south arrive in on that one?

J. K. ROWLING: Yeah, but it's a different genre though, isn't it? You're an arrogant person if you assume that because you can do one thing, you can do everything. And I'm not that person. I absolutely like writing the "Strike" books, and so I did. I managed to obtain an proposal from someone who didn't know it was me.

And in fact, we'd a couple of people interested in it. And the BBC wanted to meet me, without knowing it was me. They wanted to meet "Robert," which was fabulous, except I couldn't go to the meeting (LAUGHS) because I clearly wasn't "Robert." So, things were getting a tiny bit complicated when my cover was blown.

label PHILLIPS: But there'south also the legend that the book sold nicely, and then when it became known that you were who you were, ka-boom, they took off?

J. K. ROWLING: Of course.

tag PHILLIPS: Going forward, if you're not gonna do Potter anymore, where does Jo go from here, I guess is the question?

J. K. ROWLING: Well, I've definitely got more Strike books in me. I've another children'south book that'll be out at some point. I intend to hold writing these screenplays, because I'm really enjoying those. And I've got a couple of other ideas, so yeah. I've got plenty to do.

For more info:

  • "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two" at the Palace Theatre, London | Ticket info
  • "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two" - Opening at the Lyric Theatre, NY City, Spring two thousand eighteen | Registration to purchase tickets begins Oct. 1
  • jkrowling. com
  • pottermore. com (from J. K. Rowling)

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