Madeleine Bundy is one of the funniest actresses in Puffs, where she plays the fatalistic Susan Bones, Moaning Myrtle, and Harry Potter himself. Hypable spoke with Madeleine about playing iconic Wizarding World characters in the play that’s all about Hufflepuffs!
Puffs is now playing at the Elektra Theater in New York, and as we’ve written previously on Hypable, we love this show all about Hufflepuffs! Tickets and more can be found at PuffsThePlay.com. Use discount code PuffsHype and save 10 percent!
On playing Harry Potter
Irvin Khaytman (IK): Let’s talk about your portrayal of Harry. How do you find the balance between gently making fun of him and not coming off as a total schmuck?
Madeleine Bundy (MB): That is super important, because [when] you’re playing Harry, you’re playing the hero. So the details that you pick in how you choose to portray that person is super important, because you want to be respectful to the fandom. We’ve got all these wonderful impressions of these amazing British actors in the show. I think they’re loving impressions, I don’t think we try to make fun of anyone too harshly. But the difference between doing a Maggie Smith impression versus doing a Daniel Radcliffe impression is that Daniel Radcliffe, when he was doing the film, was a kid. He was learning. So it’s really important to me, that I didn’t want to make fun of a little kid learning how to act, because that’s not nice.
[Note: This may be the most Puff thing anyone has ever said about imitating celebs.]
MB: And I also think that he does an amazing job and I want to be very respectful of that. I also don’t think the show requires a Daniel Radcliffe impression, I don’t think that’s what the script was calling for. So when I went back to reread the books, the number one thing that stuck with me in my heart was just how kind and how good Harry is. He is such a good person, and how he and Ron become friends is so complicated. Where Ron talks about not being able to afford the candy and Harry offers him the money, [saying], “I know what it’s like to grow up poor.” That’s a really complicated a thing for a little kid to say and feel. And so, Harry is a good person is my core for the performance. As he magically walks in, he loves everybody and there’s this sort of Mary Poppins-like “He can fix everything!” And that makes it all the more humorous because the play is told from Wayne’s perspective. Wayne just sees the person that is stealing all his thunder.
IK: One of the lines that impressed me so much the first time I saw Puffs was at the end, when they were like, “Is this what Potter feels like all the time? It sucks!” And I thought, “Yes, exactly!”
MB: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Like, he didn’t ask to be this Jesus figure. He didn’t ask for this tragedy to fall upon his parents. He feels it’s his responsibility to rid the world of this evil, but that’s gotta wear on you and that’s got to be really stressful and hard. And he sees a lot of his friends and family members die because of him. There’s casualties and there’s consequences to him being around. And that’s gonna be on his soul for the rest of his life. I think it’s important that when you’re portraying a hero like that, you take that into consideration, and you’re actually very respectful of how important that is.
IK: You’ve taken on the leads of all of the Potter stories. You’re Harry in Puffs, you’re Albus Severus in Nineteen Years Later [the Puffs parody of Cursed Child], and you’re Eddie RedMayne in Dude Where’s My Fantastic Beast [the Puffs parody of Fantastic Beasts]. Are you just drawn to main characters and heroes?
MB: I think Matt [Cox, the playwright] had me read Albus and older Harry and then Newt’s character because he thought, “In this group, Maddie plays this archetype.” That was Matt’s choice to put me in those. I just love the idea of my Harry coming onstage and he loves everybody and he just wants to give the world a big hug. The one thing I do find funny about Harry—this happens in the movies—he’s constantly amazed by everything that he sees. He has to be because he’s your protagonist. But no matter how much magic he sees he’s still amazed by it. You would think by Year Five he would be like “Yeah, yeah, I get it.” But he’s still like, “[Gasp] wow!” The thrill doesn’t wear off. So my Harry is just always walking around being amazed by everything that’s happening around him at all times. So that’s where that cheery disposition came from.
IK: Do you have a favorite part of the show? Because my favorite is “de nada!” [Which Harry proudly says in response to Fleur’s gratitude after the Second Task.]
MB: Oh, yeah. There was one day Matt was like “Can you have Harry just say something in French?” And I was like, “Harry doesn’t know French.” So I had this Spanish line that came up. My favorite Harry moment … I love when I come out and I hug Wayne. It’s a little different every night, it is a little moment of improv so I never quite know what’s gonna happen. I think it’s showing what my Harry truly is on the inside. Another Easter egg is my shoes. I wear a pair of velvet Converse and they say “snuggly” on the side. So Harry wears these shoes that say “snuggly.”
IK: I have to ask, are you a Puff in real life?
MB: I’m gonna tell you the truth. Whenever I’ve done the Pottermore quiz, I’ve always been sorted into Brave. [Interviewer gasps.] I know, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.
IK: Well, now it makes sense why you’re Harry. It’s all coming together now.
MB: Especially with the new one, they were giving people different answers than they were expecting. So I was certain I was gonna get Puffs. And I do feel like a Puff, but Pottermore sorted me into Brave.
On Juggling Multiple Roles
IK: You get to play so many characters, but you have two pretty major roles with Harry and Susie, [with] Harry being one of the most prevalent non-Puff characters. Is it a struggle to juggle the two and constantly switch back and forth?
MB: We’ve done the show so many times that the going back and forth is muscle memory at this point. I remember at the PIT when we were first doing it, it was sort of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. Because the only costume element I change are the glasses—if I’m Harry, I put on the glasses. So yeah, I do remember the first couple of performances I was like, “Ah! Who am I?” But we’ve done it so much now, it’s muscle memory at this point.
On playing Susan Bones
IK: Talking of things that you can only notice if you keep coming back a lot of times, I noticed that in the background, there’s a little something brewing between Susie Bones and Sally Perks.
MB: Each character only talks to other characters so much onstage, because we are running around so much. We do have these little backstories that we sort made for ourselves over time. So Jessie [Cannizzaro], who plays Sally [Perks], [she and I] have developed a little love triangle backstage between Sally and Susie. Because we do interact a lot, and [when] these two characters are interacting for apparently no reason, it’s fun to come up with a reason.
IK: Right, so what’s the dramatic arc of your relationship?
MB: I love playing Susie, a Puff that is referenced in the book only a couple of times. But it’s fun to take these little characters and develop an entire weird little world for them. Even if I am the only one that ever knows about it, I do — over the course of Puffs, I was like, I think Susie is a lesbian. And I think she’s in love with this girl named Sally, and when Sally goes off and starts flirting with Wayne, I think that upsets her and causes this rift. I think Susie, who’s this very sheltered girl, is discovering her sexuality through the love of this other girl.
IK: Oh my!
MB: That’s my little backstory for that character.
IK: I love that. And most importantly, do you have a ship name for the two of them?
MB: A ship name? Oh, what does that mean?
[There followed an explanation of ship names, which sounds really ridiculous when you try to explain it out loud.]
MB: Oh, I didn’t know that was the name for [couples]! I have not been on the internet enough. [Laughter] We haven’t come up with a ship name but I’m going to see her in a few hours so I should ask her if we can come up with one.
IK: Excellent. My suggestion is Perky Bones, but you can take it or leave it.
MB: I love that.
[Maddie later emailed this writer, “We came up with Perky Bones.” So that’s the official ship name now.]
MB: We have a lot of Susie jokes backstage. Like, Susie’s always getting sick and her last name [is] “Bones,” because she has all these made-up bone disorders.
On playing Moaning Myrtle
IK: So, were you a big Harry Potter fan before the whole Puffs thing got started?
MB: I think I was in the second or third grade when it really really blew up, and yeah, I loved it. I feel like, I remember everyone loving it. It changed the way kids were reading, it made reading fun. You had permission to have fun with any book, you didn’t have to just see it as a homework assignment. My father is a huge reader. I honestly think if he could just wake up and read until he goes to sleep, I think he would. So that was something that we always shared when I was growing up, and the Potter series was a huge part of that. A new book would come out and we would race to see who could finish it first. Sometimes he would read sections to me and I always love that his favorite character was Myrtle. And he had this wonderful sobbing Myrtle voice that’s totally different from what Shirley Henderson [Myrtle in the movies] ended up doing. [Laughter] But when I go back and I read those Myrtle sections I hear my father doing it. So it means a lot to me that I also get to do Myrtle in the show.
IK: And your Myrtle is so much fun!
MB: It was actually the one thing I requested: [that] Myrtle be in the series because I love that actress’s voice so much. Shirley Henderson — I’ve been watching her stuff on PBS for years. In the movie, she says to Daniel Radcliffe that she was in the bathtub with Cedric. So I actually said to Matt [Cox], it would be funny if we did that scene, and also, I would like to do a Shirley Henderson impression.
IK: I love that [thanks to that], we got to see the “Prefects are Hot” scene!
On the other Puffs parodies
IK: In Nineteen Years Later, what’s it like to do really emotional scenes between yourself [as Harry] and your sock puppet [as Albus Severus]?
MB: Oh, I love when you take really ridiculous silly characters, and you have to act genuinely. That makes it all the more funny, or all the more dark, or sad, when you have this ridiculous girl playing Harry yelling at her own hand with a sock puppet. So, yeah, I love it! It’s fun! Those are the best things about acting.
IK: And as for the other Wizard Night’s thing, you got to do Newt’s mating dance in Dude Where’s My Fantastic Beast? [In the parody, we see Eddie RedMayne learning how to do the mating dance by emulating his teacher, played by Nick Carrillo.]
MB: Well we, as a Puff team, we like to go to movies as a group regularly, just as a fun after-show get-together. So we all went to the Fantastic Beast movie together. The best part about watching movies with this group, more fun than just watching the movie, is hearing what Nick [Carrillo, who plays JFF and Zach Smith] thinks is funny. He’s got this beautiful laugh, so that was the most enjoyable part, seeing what parts Nick liked. That mating dance came on and Nick was like clapping and he was like “YES! Yes! I love this movie!” So I knew when he had to do the mating dance that he was gonna do something — he had it memorized! He was like, “I didn’t even go back and rewatch it, I memorized this thing.”
IK: It was pretty spot on.
MB: He loved that scene. So I knew he wasn’t gonna hold back, and I was like, crap, I’m gonna have to do it. But I was excited, because I was like I’m just going to do whatever Nick does. But I love when I get to be weird and gross and do something that no one would expect Maddie to do. That’s fine. And that’s the best part of being an actor, surprising people.
On Zach Smith’s deep vulnerability
IK: What’s your favorite Zach Smith line? [Zach Smith, played by Nick Carrillo, gets to improvise every night, usually with something hilarious and dirty that cracks up both audience and cast.]
MB: Zach Smith cracks me up almost every time. I love when they get dark and sad and they’re not actually sexual or dirty in any way, they actually become about how vulnerable he is. Because then you’re seeing where that attitude comes from, it’s actually coming from a place of deep vulnerability. [Laughter] And yeah, we never know what Nick is going to do and it’s always amazing every time. I love when he talks about how he actually wants a girlfriend and how his parents didn’t give him enough love. Those are my favorite ones.
Now playing at the Elektra Theater in NY, tickets and more can be found at Puffstheplay.com. Use promo code PuffsHype and save 10 percent!
On Page 2: Designing ‘Puffs’ costumes
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