Entertainment

‘The whole company already feels like a family’: How the cast of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ bonded even as show was on hold


Being cast in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is one of the biggest breaks a Canadian actor can get. But it’s been a roller coaster for the Toronto company of the lavish new stage production, which is now playing in preview performances at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre.

The production was on hold because of the pandemic for over two years before rehearsals finally started this past April. Getting through that uncertain time brought the actors playing the Potter family together. Then Trevor White, who plays Harry, Trish Lindstrom as his wife Ginny and Luke Kimball as their son Albus, further bonded as all three navigated major life events — including the arrival of White’s second child on May 15, while the show was in the thick of technical rehearsals.

As the play’s official opening nears, they’re working hard to keep focused on the job at hand, and on each other.

The play is based on a story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, and is written by Thorne. It takes place two decades after Rowling’s seven-book series leaves off: Harry and Ginny Weasley have married, and son Albus (one of their three children, including James Jr. and Lily, who is not in the show) is heading off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he faces many challenges.

When COVID-19 hit, the cast started a digital group chat, though many of them had never met. White, who plays Harry Potter, broke the ice by sharing how difficult he was finding the postponement and uncertainty.

“Trevor reached out to say ‘This is very hard. This hurts my heart,’” recalled Lindstrom. “Then the floodgates opened and we all replied by saying how we felt … As the title character, there comes a responsibility that Trevor is carrying with enormous grace.”

Kimball was still in theatre school when he was cast as the youngest Potter. “When the contract disappeared because of COVID-19, it was so unsettling for many of us,” said Kimball. “To have this thing and then lose this thing, and then to hope it’s going to come back … having that (chat group) community and making those connections was what helped get me through the pandemic.”

By chance, Kimball was introduced to Lindstrom and fellow cast member Steven Sutcliffe at an outdoor performance in Stratford last summer.

Trish Lindstrom, centre, who plays Ginny Potter in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" with her late mother Sue and brother Todd, in a 1983 photo.

During our interview, Lindstrom became emotional as she recalled trying to explain to her mother that she’d met the actor playing her son. “She was like, ‘Is he a kid?’ and I said, ‘No, no, he’s in his early 20s.’ She asked ‘How is that? How’s that going to work?’… she always sees me as a child.” Lindstrom’s mother died suddenly a few months later, in October 2021.

For White, baby Kenzo’s arrival in the middle of the process has added a new level of complexity to his life. Yet it also put everything in perspective, said the actor who, with wife Eleanor Matsuura, an actor, also have a four-year-old daughter, Yoshimi.

“Even if this is, as I’m told, the biggest theatre production in Canadian history, all we can do is connect with each other within all the crazy stuff going on,” he said.

Kimball, meanwhile, benefits from the care of his onstage dad. “When I’ve had a bad day, Trevor might tease me to try and keep my spirits up,” said Kimball. “But when I get home there’s always a text from Trevor saying, ‘Hey buddy, how are you feeling?’”

Alan and Lamorna (Morny) White, the parents of Trevor White, who plays Harry Potter in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."

White also welled up when talking about his parents, who are elderly and live in White Rock, B.C., and will probably be unable to travel to see the show. “My mom tells me she loves me, probably too much … my father never said it, even though I know he does.

“I’ve tried to be different with my kids about that, and it’s something that Harry struggles with enormously in the play … Ginny teaches me how to be a more loving and present person and parent,” he said.

Kimball’s grandfather passed away the weekend before rehearsals started in April. “He was the first close relative I lost,” he said. “All this stuff we’re talking about and struggling with about families … It’s amazing how things happen at the same time.”

Albus Potter is played by Luke Kimball, right, with his mother Lori-Jean Taylor, father Scott Kimball, and brother Ryan in a 1998 photo.

Connecting through the group chat and now working in person has brought everyone working on the show together. “Genuinely the whole company already feels like a family,” said Lindstrom. “Within that, there’s this special family as well,” she said, referring to the three Potters.

They felt that family grow bigger when they met fans at a promotional event for the show in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square on May 31. Those encounters brought home how important the show is to many people, including a young woman who asked the actors to sign her autograph book. As has the character of Albus, the young woman has experienced bullying; she and her father cried as she told the actors about herself. Kimball said it was “exceptionally moving” to see how much it meant for this fan, and others, to have their experiences represented in the Potter books and onstage.

While such public encounters have the potential to be distracting, Lindstrom tries to view them as an opportunity to “pull us further into” the show. “I think that’s what (the event at Yonge-Dundas) did for me, at least” she said. “That’s what each audience can do for us too, is just to feel their heart.”

“There can be such a narcissistic thing about acting,” agreed Kimball, “because you are necessarily looking at yourself. There’s a lot of self-reflection.” Meeting fans is a good experience to “get you out of yourself, but also you have to keep it in yourself. That’s a really interesting push and pull,” he said.

Lindstrom beamed at Kimball’s statement like the proud onstage mama she is. “This is what we’re talking about here — this incredibly talented, young, wise human that we get to work with and call a son … This is really special.”

Tickets are available for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre through Dec, 24. Mirvish.com and 800-461-3333.

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