Wonderland.

HERO FIENNES TIFFIN

The lead of After on Harry Potter, juggling three jobs, and playing the bad boy in our full Spring 19 interview.

Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland polo top

All clothing and accessories PRADA SS19 MENSWEAR

Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland polo top
All clothing and accessories PRADA SS19 MENSWEAR

Taken from the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the magazine now.

He’s already claimed his space as the new heartthrob to know, but Hero Fiennes Tiffin hasn’t even shown the world his first starring role yet. This April, he’s due to set screens — and teen hearts — alight in the film adaptation of the book that’s been read one billion times, Anna Todd’s After.

“Sorry one second, I think my mum’s at the door,” Hero Fiennes Tiffin says hurriedly. “‘Do you have a key, Mum?’” He shouts in the distance, “‘Yeah I’m just doing a phone interview. Yeah, it’s alright.’ Sorry she’s got keys. Where were we sorry?” His South London lilt slides much more smoothly through the receiver once again, and the actor explains apologetically, “I still live with my mum.” But being just 21, his stress on “still” is both endearing and not entirely necessary.

I’m eavesdropping on a perfectly conventional cross-section of family life for most 21 year olds, but at the moment, Fiennes Tiffin is living in a limbo of sorts. When we speak in February, he’s living almost as anonymously as any one of his peers, enjoying downtime between jobs and rounding off his “normal childhood”, embarking on the ascent to fully-fledged adulthood that we all eventually face. The only difference is that in two months’ time, he’ll be projected onto cinema screens worldwide, having won the leading role in the film adaption of After, a story read over a billion times.

“The best way that I feel to do auditions — especially when you’re starting out and you’re doing loads of them — is to try and just do the audition and forget about it and put it out of your mind,” he audibly shrugs, casually explaining the first steps of his current life overhaul. “Once you’ve done what you do on the day, there’s nothing more you can do.” A fair assessment for a newbie, but what he didn’t realise is that the audition he went into with few expectations would land him with a ready-made army of ferocious fans and the kind of reception most established performers dream of.

Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland jacket
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in blue shirt
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland jacket
All clothing and accessories PRADA SS19 MENSWEAR
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in blue shirt

With a few acting credits to his name, most notably as a young Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (yes, the older iteration of his character, that Fiennes, is his real life uncle), Fiennes Tiffin’s career was on track for a burgeoning thesp, but things got serious when he decided to give up his studies at 18 to pursue a career in acting full- time. “I realised that I was doing a bunch of auditions that I had to do late at night or an inconvenient time, because I’d had coursework to do, and I was working at a food business as well,” he explains. “Juggling all three, auditions were the only thing where there wasn’t an immediate punishment, so it was the easiest one to take a hit and put at the bottom of my priorities.” Knowing he didn’t want to go to university and follow up on any of the subjects he was taking, he “realised the only way to put the right amount of pressure into acting and auditions was to dropout of school”. Then came After.

Written and posted out of sheer boredom on online storytelling platform Wattpad by its author, Anna Todd, After began in its simplest form as a Harry Styles’ fan-fiction. Write the One Direction singer’s name anywhere online in relation to the story (that went on to become a five-part series), and await thousands of responses from readers setting the record straight, so let me clarify: Styles’ likeness was only used as inspiration for the dreamboat looks of the love interest for protagonist Tessa Young (called Anna after her creator in the books). Named Hardin Scott in the screen adaptation, the bad boy is your quintessential rebel, who diverts the sweet and studious Tessa from a future on the straight and narrow path that’s awaiting her. It’s a tried and tested formula, but in the case of After its one that’s morphed into a phenomenon.

“There’s something about it that obviously resonates with all the fans,” Fiennes Tiffin agrees. “I think the fact that there’s elements of sex that it doesn’t shy away from, and then the fact that there’s elements of the relationship not going well that it doesn’t shy away from, and people not being perfect. The fact that everything changes so quickly. You always need a refreshing, modern take on that classic kind of love story.”

The online chapters have been criticised for including factors that aren’t fairytale-worthy in Hardin and Tessa’s relationship; details like alcoholism, jealousy, punch-ups and what some commenters have argued is emotional abuse of Tessa. They’re all red flags Fiennes Tiffin is very much aware of, and while fiction is just that, care has to be taken to make sure these problematic plot-lines aren’t romanticised.

Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in red top
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland polo
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in red top
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in red top
All clothing and accessories PRADA SS19 MENSWEAR
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland polo
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in red top

“He’s definitely a controversial one,” Fiennes Tiffin exhales considering his role. “I definitely learnt how not to judge my character, because there are times when you want to. You know when you’re screaming at the screen in a film? I felt like Hardin is like that a lot. But also that’s great to play as an actor, because it’s that kind of illogical, impulsive stuff that you really have to get into to do it.”

“Obviously a lot changes when you turn a book into a film,” he continues. “We’ve been very conscious of the kind of things that can run in a book and can’t run on screen, because it becomes a lot more real, and people can be more heavily influenced by it. You do need to be more conscious of the kind of stuff that you show and eventually rectify. You need to be conscious of the kind of things that you’re saying and the implications they have… It was something that we always had in mind, so I don’t see anything like that happening when the film comes out… The elements that people think are glorifying things that shouldn’t be glorified, I definitely think that those aspects have been toned down in the film.”

Being the book that changed her life — going from working in a call centre and being an “army wife” at home in Texas while her husband was on tour in Iraq, to securing a six figure sum for the publishing rights to After and a series book deal — Todd was on set every day to make sure the film never strayed too far from her vision. “She’d give you all the advice you’d need,” Fiennes Tiffin effuses. “Making sure you stay true to the character, and how the fans see the character and making sure we hit all those marks… I think she had the perfect balance of telling you what’s right and what’s wrong, but allowing you to shape it.”

The cast and crew shared a hotel for one tightly scheduled month to finish the movie and — with the light- ning turnaround — that meant scenes between the sheets shortly after meeting for Fiennes Tiffin and Josephine Langford, his co-star who plays Tessa. “I think it’s the same with all acting,” he says, “which is that when something feels awkward beforehand, whether that’s you getting really angry out of nowhere in a silent room, or if you’re doing intimate sex scenes, you’re there to work and everyone else in the room is there to work. You get bald, 40-year-old grips and you don’t feel like you’re being awkward or sexy when they’re just waiting for the day to get done.”

Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in blue scuba top
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in pink shirt
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in blue scuba top
All clothing and accessories PRADA SS19 MENSWEAR
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland in pink shirt

It’s surely these scenes that are going to have the “new adult” 18-30 demographic losing their shit, for want of a better term, with the book branded as the younger 50 Shades of Grey. It’s a process that’s already happening online, with Fiennes Tiffin now followed by over half a million Instagram users who unleash the idiosyncrasies of a hardcore fandom on his every post. “I don’t read [Instagram comments] much,” he admits. “There are things that you’re supposed to hear from people when you meet someone… And then there are some things that people are comfortable enough to say behind a keyboard… I’m content just hearing what I hear to my face, rather than needing to, or feeling inclined to, go through that stuff. It feels unnatural to me. I appreciate it all massively, obviously… The sudden fame ‘thing’ has been a bit overwhelming, but you know, it’s all cool.”

Introduce him to your world gently, After stans. As a 21 year old on the cusp of an irrevocable transition into such an infamous character, Fiennes Tiffin is trying to take everything one step at a time. “I’m definitely aware of it,” he tells me before we hang up. “A couple of friends have asked me, one friend said, ‘Are you ready?’ And the answer I came to is I don’t think you can really be ready, but I’m as ready as you can be.”

Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland leather jacket
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland topless
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland leather jacket
All clothing and accessories PRADA SS19 MENSWEAR
Hero Fiennes Tiffin in the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland topless
Photography
Bartek Szmigulski
Fashion
Kamran Rajput
Hair
Brady Lea at Stella Creative Artists using Leonor Greyl
Makeup
Adrian Swiderski at Frank Agency using NEO MAKE UP and Muri Muri Beauty
Special thanks
Shelford Place Studios
HERO FIENNES TIFFIN