Anthony Boyle doesn't play Scorpius Malfoy anymore, but for millions of fans, he'll always be the unlikely protagonist of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The 25-year-old Irish actor played Draco Malfoy's son in the original West End production of the Harry Potter play and helped bring it to Broadway in New York. Now, he's starring in HBO's new miniseries, The Plot Against America, but Boyle tells Inverse he owes his career to the universe created by J.K. Rowling.
"I didn't know what I was getting myself into, and it was a real baptism fire," he says. "I was just thrown into this massive franchise, and after that, everything changed for me. I look at my life pre- and post-Potter."
Harry Potter has given Anthony Boyle a lot, but it's also exposed him to one of the weirder sides of the internet: intense fandoms. Graphic fan art, shipping, slash fiction... he's seen it all, though he wasn't exactly eager to discuss it.
"I've seen some interesting things," Boyle says. "I've seen some very interesting, um, artwork."
Boyle's character, Scorpius Malfoy, is at the center of a popular and controversial fan theory about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which argues that Malfoy and his best friend in the play, Albus Potter (Harry and Ginny's son), are romantically involved. Their ship name is "scorbus."
When the script was first published, its authors were accused of queerbaiting (hinting at a romantic homosexual relationship to drive interest without ever delivering), and in The Guardian, queer critic Ilana Masad laid out this criticism. Here's one passage that explains the issue with a scripted hug between Scorpius and Albus:
"Albus and Scorpius make a fuss out of hugging (“We said we wouldn’t do that!”) in a manner resembling the common trope 'Hot Gay Hugging': a hilarious title for the less-than-funny absence of casual intimacy allowed between homosexual characters," Masad writes. "Hetero couples get to kiss, the gays are limited to a (hot gay) hug."
When I ask Boyle if he thinks his character's relationship with Albus Potter might be more than platonic, he says no. At least, that's not the way he played it, though that doesn't mean another actor couldn't take the role in a different direction.
I can only speak for when I was doing the show, but it never really felt like that. It felt platonic, and I think it's almost stronger that you can have two 14-year-old kids, boys in particular, telling each other that they need each other or that they have love for one another, that it didn't need to be this whole vague romantic thing. It felt quite strong to have two young men hugging and all that stuff.
But maybe another actor will play it differently; that's the beauty of Jack Thorne's incredible script. That's the beauty of plays. One can play Hamlet and hate his mother, and one can play Hamlet and love his mother. A play lives and breathes, as it should.
Boyle might not be the biggest fan of this theory, but he's still a diehard Harry Potter fan.
"I was before, he says, "and now I know so much about it."
When I ask for his favorite book or movie, he replies in an instant: The Prisoner of Azkaban, both for Alfonso Cuarón's artistic approach to the film and because of the complex, imaginative plot.
"I loved that book," he says. "I remember there was a chapter called 'Cat, Rat, and Dog.' It's when all that sort of madness happens. Someone turns into something. As a kid, that caught my imagination."
Anthony Boyle is a member of the Inverse Future 50, a group of 50 people who will be forces of good in the 2020s.