Harry Potter Actor Harry Melling on the 'Blessing' of Not Being Recognized: 'I Could Almost Start Again'

British actor Harry Melling has appeared in three Netflix projects over the course of the pandemic, years after playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films

Harry Melling Dudley Dursley Harry Potter
Harry Melling as Dudley Dursley in Harry Potter (left) and Harry Melling today. Photo: David Fisher/Shutterstock; Warner Bros. Pictures/Alamy

If you've binged any Netflix over the past few months, you've likely come across Harry Melling — except you probably didn't recognize him for his most famous role.

The British actor, 31, looks virtually unrecognizable from his Dudley Dursley character in the Harry Potter film series to his three Netflix projects, all of which hit the streaming platform amid the coronavirus pandemic: the Charlize Theron–starring action film The Old Guard, the star-studded thriller The Devil All the Time, and the company's latest buzzed-about show, The Queen's Gambit.

"I hope people don't get bored of seeing me," he jokes to PEOPLE. "But honestly it's just a great, strange coincidence that unfortunately, people can't get out and so they're relying on Netflix. So it's been a really strange and wonderful happening, the fact that these shows have all had this strange COVID life almost."

Harry Melling
Harry Melling. Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage

Over the course of the Harry Potter films, Melling lost a considerable amount of weight, previously revealing that he was almost recast for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, but ended up wearing a fat suit to keep the role.

"I think it was an unconscious thing when it started to happen," Melling says of his transformation. "I went to drama school when I was 18 and that's kind of where the weight shifted, not for any sort of major need on my side, but it's just something that just happened. And I've done a lot since drama school, went to do lots of theater. I think one of the blessings of that sort of stage in my life was the fact that I didn't get recognized. I had this history of being part of the films, but also I felt like I had the opportunity to sort of cause a new start, which I think is useful."

Since wrapping up his Harry Potter run, Melling has worked steadily, with roles in films like The Lost City of Z and the Coen brothers' odyssey The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It wasn't until this year, however, that the actor showcased his impressive range, playing a villainous pharmaceutical executive in The Old Guard, stealing scenes from Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson in The Devil All the Time, and learning a new skill to play a chess master in The Queen's Gambit.

Harry Melling The Queen's Gambit Netflix
Harry Melling in The Queen's Gambit. PHIL BRAY/NETFLIX

"I was awful. I didn't know how to play," he confesses when discussing his preparation for The Queen's Gambit. "I knew a chessboard, I knew what the pieces looked like, but I had no idea how they moved, where they went, what the rules were. So I was starting from scratch."

As for his evil turns in The Old Guard and the Harry Potter franchise, Melling admits, "Everyone does say it's fun to play the baddie, and I do think there's a lot of truth in that."

But the actor stresses, "I like to think that I'm not an evil person or malicious in any way."

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