The Harry Potter universe seems perfect in every which way, but no fantasy is forever.

Is there any 21st-century franchise more beloved than Harry Potter?

Over the last twenty years, the widespread universe of Harry Potter has been inspiring generation upon generation of young minds to believe in the impossible. It has empowered youth and adults alike to stretch their imagination and explore peculiar, fascinating spaces that hadn’t existed before. We fell in love with magic in such an uncontrollable, unprecedented way that we’re still carrying hope in our hearts to receive our letter of admission to Hogwarts. In short: Harry Potter is comfort entertainment at its best. 

What makes the movies and books so enticing is how we feel like we can identify ourselves among its vast array of oddball characters. The fictional world of wizards and witches and giants and Muggles might seem wholly unfamiliar to the average human, but the interpersonal dynamics underpinning the narrative are as relatable as ever. The recent HBO reunion special, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, not only reflects the legacy of the franchise but spills many of the secrets that had been lurking underneath the glory. 

As it turns out, there is a dark side to everything: the cast went through more than their fair share of challenges amidst the fame.

Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe reveal they considered quitting at one point

Writer J K Rowling with actors, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson at the UK Film Premiere of ‘Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone’ on 4th November 2001, in London. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)

In the special, stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint open up on growing up in the public eye and what it was like spending the majority of their childhood and adolescence on a multibillion-dollar movie set. They were catapulted into the upper echelons of fame and renown at such a startlingly early age that the responsibility became far too overwhelming for their developing sensibilities. The pressure to be perfect was all-encompassing and endless, so it’s not a surprise why some of the actors wanted to quit at some point. Emma Watson revealed how she considered “pulling out” when the going got tough. Saying she was “scared,” Emma disclosed how she had reached a “tipping point” of sorts and realized that she would be Hermoine “forever.” 

I think I was scared. I don’t know if you ever felt like it got to a tipping point where you were like, ‘This is kind of forever now.’

Emma Watson on Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts

Rupert Grint said he had been through the same journey, feeling restless “all the way through” his portrayal of Ron Weasley, “contemplating what life would be like if I called it a day.” Daniel Radcliffe also mirrored the sentiment, adding how each of them was feeling the anxieties of being part of such an influential project but weren’t able to muster the courage to share their inner conflict with others. “We never really spoke about it. I guess we were just going through it at our own pace,” he said. 

We were kind of in the moment at the time. It just didn’t really occur to us that we were all probably kind of having similar feelings. 

Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts

It’s no secret how the star of Harry Potter himself developed an acute case of alcoholism while filming the movies. In a prior interview, Daniel ascribed his addiction to the qualms of being a young actor being “watched” by everyone. Yes, ultimately, he made his own bed, and he claims full responsibility for his actions, but the gnawing, discomfiting feeling of being under surveillance at all times wasn’t a help. “I definitely think a lot of the drinking that happened towards the end of Potter and sort of for a little bit after it finished, it was panic and not knowing what to do next and not being comfortable enough in who I was to remain sober,” he told BBC Radio 4

Emma Watson, for her part, felt utterly isolated at times, being the sole female lead of this colossal franchise. “I was lonely. The fame thing had finally hit home in a big way.” Director David Yates confirmed this, adding he had told his producer how Emma “wasn’t sure if she wanted to come back.” At least Rupert and Daniel had each other, but Emma had no one. The urge to leave was strong, but ultimately, she made the hard decision to come back and see through the remainder of her contract. 

They “lost track” of who they were, but at least they had each other

Actor Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in 2010 (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

The Harry Potter experience wasn’t perfect, not by a mile, yet, at the end of the day, the environment was pleasant and supportive enough to make the young actors at the center feel loved. They had to deal with carrying such an enormous burden on their small shoulders, but they also had each other to get them through the hard times. Emma said despite the loneliness; she didn’t need much convincing to come back to set. “The fans genuinely wanted you to succeed, and we all genuinely have each other’s backs. How great is that?” she said. 

In many ways, they were lucky in that their movies didn’t have to go through the crucible of social media discourse and obsession; they were, by and large, allowed to preserve the innocence of their childhood and grow up on their own terms. Credit where credit is due: the adults on set did an admirable job of keeping the children insulated from the noise and the tension. It helps that they were able to forge such a deep, enduring friendship with each other that the crux of the struggles didn’t even impact them so much. 

Ten years since the finale, the mood is bittersweet.  The actors have come such a long way since their HP days, but the identity associated with their adored characters is difficult to shake off. “I feel like I lost track of who I was and who the character was, I didn’t really know where they ended or began,” said Rupert Grint, adding how he felt like he only knew how to do one thing: play Ron. As much recognition and love Harry Potter brought them, it also left them feeling somewhat stunted. 

Not all that glitters is gold

Even something as pristine and seemingly magical as Harry Potter wasn’t flawless. The fantasy is wonderful to cherish and appreciate, but we must also acknowledge how it wasn’t real. The people behind the show went through their struggles to give us high-quality entertainment, but in return, they faced their own emotional upheavals, memories that haunt them to this date. We have to remember how nothing is perfect: everything carries a dark side, one that isn’t as spoken about but has a bearing on the situation nonetheless. Immersing ourselves in fantasy isn’t necessarily bad, but we must prepare for when the fantasy crumbles, and reality rears its ugly head. 

Learn from Challenges
Every obstacle in life is an opportunity for growth.