Observer: How did the idea for “A Very Potter Musical” come about and what was the process like in terms of creating the script and auditions?
Joe Walker: Okay, well, AVPM was sort of born from the minds of Nick [Lang] and Matt Lang and Brian Holden, the writers of the book. And I think originally it started from this joke song idea called “I Think I’m in Danger, I’m Falling In Love With Hermione Granger,” and it was about Draco Malfoy actually having this secret crush on Hermione. I’m not sure when exactly the idea to do a musical came about, but I think it was maybe halfway through the school year. Matt just decided to put up a poster saying there was a musical happening. I don’t think the script had been written yet. And I was contacted because, they said, “We’re writing the part of Voldemort for you so you have to be in it,” so I was like, “Oh, okay, cool, sounds like fun.” We were given a script, and we did a read through and as, is sort of customary… it was sort of a disaster… and then we started rehearsing, and it was just me and Brian Rosenthal rehearsing with Matt Lang in a room for a week. It was just the three of us screwing around in a room for four hours a night…just a lot of fun; it wasn’t a very serious rehearsal process. We take screwing around very seriously. So on one end, there was a lot of work involved. On the other hand, you could hardly call it work from a certain standard.
O: Which is the best sort of show. What was it like moving from doing college shows to doing shows outside of college?
JW: Well, as things get more hectic and you have more responsibilities, I found I got better at handling them. Strangely enough, the ability to handle more things went along with the ability to do them even better, so that was how it was by the end of school. I had a blast doing Harry Potter because it was a side project. Which is not to say I didn’t focus on it, but it was just one aspect of my life. And that’s the main difference between doing them in and out of school. Now it’s almost like 100% focus on the shows… but it can become almost overly strenuous, because you almost put too much attention on them… On the other hand, I think the quality of the work has gone up a lot, and just the extra amount of thought and processing time that you’re given outside of school definitely benefits it a lot.
O: How do you guys feel about pursuing a dream that doesn’t necessarily bring in a lot of money?
JW: I think that a trick that we’ve been learning mostly has to do with artistic collaboration. It’s important to have an improvisational spirit while still being strict. Probably the most interesting part is, we do it for free. We’ve outright refused other distribution streams like Hulu or something like that because it might cost the fans money to watch. I mean, the terrifying thing to jump into is [doing something that’s not going to make a lot of money]. And you go, “Oh if I’m not making money, I’m not worth anything,” and it’s obviously not true. It’s not always easy to be positively reinforced if you’re a broke actor. But you know, now Darren is mega-rich, and I didn’t really see that one coming! It’s also a matter of being enterprising, entrepreneurial to a certain extent. We sell t-shirts, we sell stuff, and I like that we give away the thing that we love the most and then try and make some money on the side.
O: Do you have any advice for kids who want to do theater after school?
JW: I think the steps we took that are valuable are recognizing that we work well together, and we enjoy it, and then buckling down and trying to do it semi-professionally. And we’re all still struggling with the idea of auditioning for other stuff, but when it comes to that, we’re all pretty normal. We go on our auditions, we keep our eyes peeled in the papers. But when we’re not doing that, we’re trying to keep our artistic knives sharp and create content for ourselves to do… Theater programs are such tight little communities, and then you get out, and you’re completely lost. It’s like being reborn, you know, you’ve been in this world and then you don’t have shit. We’ve just spent four years together; there’s no reason not to just continue those strong bonds that you’ve made out into the real world. Keep your training, keep your friends…Put them together and hope for the best! …There’s always this sort of immediate post-grad thing where you go, “Well, it’s over. The end.” And though that is true with the college specifically, you still have all the relationships that you’ve made.