Severus Snape and the Marauders: An Interview with Lily Evans

Severus Snape and the Marauders is the prequel fan film that Harry Potter fans needed. I had always thought, if we were ever to get an official prequel, that it would feature the marauders. But no, instead, we live in a world where the next official prequel features the author of a Hogwarts textbook. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all kinds of excited for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but more stories about the marauders are what I really want.

Thank goodness for fan films! And thank goodness for Justin Zagri. Justin wrote and directed 2013’s The Greater Good, featuring the epic battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. This year, Justin strikes again.

I want to take a moment to apologize for the lack of content lately, and to explain that it has to do with a combination of reasons: my busy schedule, to-do lists that are miles long, hosting problems that are now (finally) resolved, etc. That being said, Severus Snape and the Marauders was released about two months ago. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should. In fact, watch it now, before you continue reading. I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that awesome? Wasn’t that definitely a film that you needed in your life? I thought so.

Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to interview Dani Jae, the actress who plays Lily Evans in this film. Below you can read more about her, look through a few pictures and read my interview with her:

Dani Jae is an actor, model, host, joke-cracker, most things creative, and some things superhero. Originally from Houston, TX., then Salt Lake City, UT., she began modeling in an array of mediums: fashion print, runway, commercial, body paints, sculpture, and film. After moving to Los Angeles, Dani attended and graduated the Joanne Baron, D.W. Brown 2-Year Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts in Santa Monica, CA., shifting her focus from photo to film/stage.

Shortly after graduation, she began performing weekly with an Improv troupe based out of Hollywood. As an indi-team with a home base, the team performed regularly, but also at a variety of venues across the city, including places like Second City LA and iO West.

With an enthusiasm for kids, Dani teaches improv and academics to elementary school children in West LA, while currently writing her own comedy content and set to begin performing individually as well.

Dani consistently works in theatre productions and in film; she resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Firstly, I wanted to say that Lily is one of my favorite characters, and I thought that you played her beautifully. Well done. Talk me through the process of creating this fan film and your role in that process. What did you think of the final product?

Wow, I really appreciate hearing a compliment like that from someone who values the character – thank you! This film has been nothing shy of a labor of love from all of us, big roles and small. Being able to create something fresh off a lifelong beloved story as Harry Potter was a real privilege; the fact that we had a sincere level of professionalism from the ground up really helped to solidify this as a far greater undertaking than what the simple “fan film” title usually brings. We wanted to showcase our own individual talents and also bring to light a part of this fiction’s history that is so pivotal, and so little written about or known of. I believe we did that! The fans have been the ones to give us the answer, but we’re proud of the ability to have blended so well into the HP Universe. Now, when JK gives us HER blessing, we may just melt into a puddle… 😊

What are your thoughts on the backstory from the books? I thought that this film especially portrays Severus as the victim and James as the bully. What did you think about their film characterizations? To be honest, it almost made me question why Lily would choose either of them in the end.

The backstory gave us the bones on which to build, and I think this film’s writing and performances did a fabulous job on capturing each individual characterization. Keeping true to the books was extremely important to us. The entire first scene in the bar maps out the Marauders’ relationships and history, and so much of the humor/beauty in that spot is only noticed by true HP fans. It’s not surprising that James comes off as being the bully here, but also note a few additional things: While his most provoking moment was likely kicking Severus off of the stool, most all of his actions can be summed up in a protective and loyal nature. He values his friends, and at this point, he values Lily. From James’ perspective, he’s taking on Severus in an attempt to prevent an even greater danger – his work in the Dark Arts and joining with the Death Eaters, which is a clear disaster to James. Another thing to consider, how does the film end? With Snape recounting his event to Lord Voldemort. Does that then put this entire series of events as seen through Snape’s eyes, or even perhaps Voldemort’s? In which case, it would be heavily tilted towards Snape’s victimization… I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is the case. In the end, one of Lily’s top qualities is loyalty. She is also attracted to the same quality. James demonstrates repeatedly his level of loyalty to his friends, especially with Remus’ monthly change and Sirius’ broken home. James’ saving grace in the end of this film is his honesty, because without it, your loyalty falls short – every time.

Related question: Do you think that Severus was prepared to kill James if you hadn’t stepped in?

Oh absolutely! He was all in at that point! From Severus’ point of view, this guy had this coming for ages, and on top of that, “stealing” away his one true friend that he felt so deeply about. I don’t think his apology to Lily would’ve come about had the stakes not been so high as to cause a death.

How important is it that fans are able to create their own fan media: from Harry Potter fan films like this one, to wizard rock, for example?

Personally, I find it crucial to a brand, especially the nerd type. You could’ve asked me that question a few years ago and I may have given a different answer, but this project has shown me many things about the fan world. It creates a bond and a community beyond what the writer has already established. It gives liberty to those who would otherwise be only observers, which causes a much greater personal and emotional investment into a universe. I believe that one of the reasons Harry Potter will go in book/film history is because of the attachment people have grown, much of which is a direct result of having the liberty to explore undiscussed or new concepts that grow out of fan media. Not only that, but also as it relates to our specific film, it provides a platform for talented and professional artists to come together and showcase themselves in a readily acceptable format. The pro’s definitely outweigh the con’s in this argument!

When Alan Rickman died, how did it affect the cast and crew of this production, especially since Snape is the central character in this film?

That’s an excellent question, especially because we all handle death, and celebrity deaths, differently. I can say though, it was a heavy weight on the entire cast and crew; there was definitely a level of mourning we all went through, not only because of the importance Alan Rickman’s character(s) had in all of our individual lives, but because now it became more critical than ever that this film be shown in the proper way. One of the saddest points of his passing (for us all) was that he would never have the chance to see ‘Severus Snape and the Marauders’, which is something any fan-made film strives for – for the original author or subject of your creativity to see what they’ve inspired. It’s almost a way of making a full creative circle, so without that possibility, it left a gap and simultaneous burden that was now up to the fans and media to consider. I can’t speak for the full cast/crew, but I feel like part of the responsibility we now have is to ensure that Rickman’s legacy lives a long while.

How awesome is Alexander Arntzen? I personally am of the opinion that movies would be nothing without the music, and I think Alexander is a great composer. I especially loved his “Greater Good” score.

I am SO happy you mentioned him – and that you watched ‘Greater Good’. Yes! Alexander is wonderfully talented, and without him, it’s accurate to say this film wouldn’t have been the same. He was the one who made having an full 65 piece orchestra from Budapest Scoring more than just a possibility – it happened! While writing starts the ball rolling, the acting engages you, the music is pivotal to how something makes you feel. He is well on his way to accomplishing many things in the entertainment world. Keep your eyes on this one. And a fun fact: Alexander’s birthday is right around the corner.

Was it important to Justin that you all have British accents? Was that hard to pull off?

Oh yes, we all understood the importance of the British accents. Accents are a very personal thing for many actors, and we tend to practice them in different ways. Mick (Snape) has played several British characters in the past, while Garrett (James) almost was fired from his day job for practicing his accent while at work! Personally, I love jumping to accents, and tend to mess around in them daily, so it wasn’t a stretch. The biggest compliment was when the film was screening at Oxford University, in the UK, and the students there were asking if all of us were American or not – we all beamed, just a smidge.

I suppose this is a question that you might not be able to answer, since you didn’t get to do as much magic in the film as the others, but were the dueling scenes difficult to choreograph? I’d guess it was difficult to imagine what the magic effects would look like in the final product. (The effects were incredible, by the way.)

You’re right, it’s a little outside of what I was doing in the film, but I was definitely there for the boys’ dueling time. Much of the duels were choreographed, yes; Justin had a keen sense about where he wanted everyone to end up, and the body movements it was going to take to get there. The interesting part was, once we were in the forest filming, the wand movements became much more frequent than we realized! The guys were going with the film-flow and not much realizing how each movement complicated the work for the special effects team in the end. Several times, we noticed the effects team had created much more than we had originally intended; THEY were the real wizards in this!

Do you have anything that you’d like to add?

I’ve learned the importance of professional teamwork on this project, more than any I’ve worked on before. Reaching beyond yourself and your circle is of prime importance. Nothing is accomplished on the solo. And with that, thank you! Thank you, to yourself and others, for being a Harry Potter fan, for caring about what happens in the fan-fiction world. It’s truly because of people like you that projects like ours exist. ‘Severus Snape and the Marauders’ was a love-project for us all, with the goal being to catapult us to our individual goals; and I believe this is the first big step. So thank you.

Thank you for being so willing to answer my questions and to share your insight in what goes into creating such an awesome fan film!

Please share your thoughts about the film or about my conversation with Dani Jae in the comments below!