SANDY — As the next film installment of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World saga draws near, Potterheads around the world are wondering what’s ahead for Newt Scamander and his friends in "The Crimes of Grindelwald." But actor Oliver Phelps, who portrayed prankster and Hogwarts dropout George Weasley in all eight “Harry Potter” films, doesn't dare speculate about what Rowling has up her sleeve.
"The one thing I've learned from being involved in all these is not to have a theory until you see it," he told the Deseret News. "I learned that on ('The Prisoner of Azkaban'). When I read that book and learned about the time turner, that totally threw everything (off)."
When it comes to the Wizarding World's future, Phelps said he’s largely been left in the dark.
"I learn the same as any fan now, which in one way is really cool and in other ways is quite frustrating," he said. "I do have a lot of friends who … have been working on the crew on this latest film and they've been giving me tidbits about what's in it. But obviously, everything's shot out of order so you've got no idea what sequence that is."
Phelps appeared at The Shops at South Town’s second annual store "Christmas in the Wizarding World" to meet fans on Wednesday, Nov. 7. The store comes complete with a mini wand shop and candy stands filled to the brim with chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. Fans can also grab Hogwarts house scarves, copies of Rowling’s books and plush owls and nifflers. (There was no Butterbeer in sight, unfortunately.)
The retail experience is sure to transport shopkeepers into Harry Potter’s world — a world that continues to expand online, on screens and on stage 11 years after the final book’s release. Phelps sees the upcoming movies and stage play as a natural step from what Rowling started with the books.
"It's awesome ... when you think (that) in North America there'd be (a part of this magical world)," he said, referencing the New York setting for the first "Fantastic Beasts" film.
But just as Rowling's world continues to grow, so does her fanbase, according to Phelps. He’s been struck by the longevity of the franchise and how its significance now spans across generations. And for Phelps, one of the most exciting parts of being George Weasley is getting to interact with fans young and old.
And the fans find him pretty exciting too. In fact, for many Utah Potterheads, seeing the beloved prankster in person was just as shocking as the character's explosive departure from Hogwarts.
"My heart is racing," said Milena Gonzalez, whose red face revealed her surprise after spotting Phelps as she browsed the merchandise. "I had to do a double take. I was like, 'Is that who I think it is? I’m going to die!'"
For Phelps, it’s the fans that keep him tied to the Wizarding World.
"It's the interaction with people more than anything," he said. "Just the reaction on people's faces and listening to their stories and their experiences with it is really cool."