Warner Bros/courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection; Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock
January 28, 2017 04:26 AM

Harry Potter actor Matthew Lewis’s transformation from awkward to this is well documented. But at heart, Lewis says he is still an underdog.

“When you’re younger, you assume everyone who is more experienced or older than you is more assured of what they’re doing, so confident,” the 27-year-old star, who played unlikely hero Neville Longbottom in the eight Potter films, said on Friday during a panel at Universal Orlando’s Celebration of Harry Potter. “But ultimately we’re all just on this planet trying to figure out what the hell we’re doing. All of us, in every job. I think that if more young people are just trying to make the best of it — all  of us, we’re all pretending, just trying to make the best of it — it would put a lot of people at ease. There’s a lot of pressure heaped on young people these days, and I think a lot of it is unnecessary. We’re all just trying to make our way.”

As for his external evolution, he acknowledges that he struggled at times — especially with one aspect of his Hogwarts costume.

“Being 15 years old in the middle of puberty, having to wear a fat suit. There’s girls around; I’ve got this fat suit on every day,” he said. “No one knows I’m wearing this damn thing, they all just think I’m fat. Now, as an actor, I go, ‘Why did you ever even complain about that? You’re the luckiest man alive.’ “

Of the current attention on his looks, he says, “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘It’s such a nightmare, people keep saying I’m good looking!’ It’s incredibly flattering, it’s lovely. But honestly, I don’t really get it.” (To which his Potter costar, Tom Felton, replied, “I do! I’ll show you a picture of what you looked like when you were 12 versus the rippling mass of muscle you are today.”)

Lewis, who reportedly met his fiancée Angela Jones at last year’s Celebration of Harry Potter (where she was working!), says he feels a special kinship with his wizard alter ego.

David M. Benett/Getty

“I was just a kind of short, chubby kid who was crap at sport, and I didn’t really have a whole lot going for me,” said the actor, who recently appeared in the BBC series Ripper Street. “As Neville grew throughout the books, so did I. My evolution as Matthew Lewis really coincided with Neville. There is a large part of me in the character, without a shadow of a doubt. But with Neville, we don’t know where, after he’d reached his peak and destroyed the horcrux, where he went onto after that, how successful he was as a teacher. I kind of feel like I can take a little of that in my career. I don’t know where I’m going to be, but that’s terribly exciting.”

During the panel discussion, which also featured Potter stars Warwick Davis (Griphook the goblin and Professor Flitwick), Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Felton revealed his biggest challenge during a decade of shooting the blockbuster series.

“I was never good when they did the Great Hall eating scenes, because the plates just did not particularly smell well, and you were eating this food over and over again,” said Felton, who currently appears in the CW superhero series The Flash as well as in the upcoming big-screen drama A United Kingdom. “So it was a bit of a dicky tummy sometimes! But if that’s really the height of the worst thing I had to face in my 10 years at Hogwarts, I’d say I got off pretty lightly!”

A Celebration of Harry Potter is being held at Universal Orlando January 27 -29, where fans can attend celebrity panels, meet original U.S. Potter illustrator Mary GrandPré and attend a special expo of Potter props from the films.

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