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Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed / Phil Bray / Netflix

If you’ve been on Netflix recently, there’s a chance you’ve watched (or heard of) The Queen’s Gambit. The new limited series is, dare I say, a perfect season of television and has entranced millions of viewers in its first few months streaming.


Phil Bray / Netflix

To celebrate the success of The Queen’s Gambit, BuzzFeed sat down with Harry Melling, who took us behind the scenes of this amazing TV series. Here’s everything we learned:


Phil Bray / Netflix

1.

First, creator Scott Frank was interested in Harry Melling joining The Queen’s Gambit very early on and actually reached out to him about the project.


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Harry said, “I heard about The Queen’s Gambit being made and I heard that Scott wanted to meet me. And so I was really excited by that.”

2.

In fact, Harry didn’t even audition for the role of Harry Beltik. Scott simply met with him, they chatted about the character, and then Scott offered him the job.


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He explained, “I thought it was just going to be a general sort of talk about the project, and then maybe go away and do an audition. And, share some offers of maybe what I think this character could be. I was completely taken aback when Scott said at the end of the meeting, ‘I’d like you to do it.'”

3.

And, Harry was always considered for the role of Harry, there was never another character he talked about playing.


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4.

Harry was a massive fan of Scott’s work before The Queen’s Gambit. He absolutely loved Godless and considers it a “genius” television series.


Phil Bray / Netflix

5.

After his meeting with Scott, Harry went home and read the book the series is based on and then read Scott’s scripts. Harry said, he said “yes” right away after reading the scripts.


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“I eventually read the scripts and it was the quickest ‘Yes!’ It was like, ‘Yes, I want to do this,” Harry said. “Not only do I love the character of Harry Beltik, but I thought every single character in it was so beautifully drawn and had such depth and nuance to them. I just thought Scott’s ability to navigate character and storytelling was just genius. So it was the biggest no brainer for me. I wanted in immediately.”

6.

One of the things that drew Harry to the character of Harry was his character arc of “selflessness” and how he eventually puts his feelings aside to help Beth.


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Harry explained, “I thought [his] selflessness was really intriguing considering where we meet him at the beginning of the series, which is he’s a far more pluckier, sort of arrogant, chess champion. I found all that nuance and all those territories really interesting to play.”

7.

A majority of Harry’s scenes in The Queen’s Gambit are opposite Anya Taylor-Joy and he said she’s an “amazing” scene partner. He explained, “It was so wonderful to share those scenes with her.”


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8.

Harry considered Harry and Beth’s relationship like a “dance” where they are always watching what the other is doing and that informs their decisions.


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“They’re almost doing this strange sort of dance with each other at all points. You know, ‘He’s done that so that means this and that means that,” he said. “There is like a sort of a jig and they’re always trying to second guess where the other person is. And within that, there’s a lot of humor, actually, there’s a lot of awkwardness, but there’s also a lot of love.”

9.

And, Harry thinks while Harry romantically loved Beth in the beginning, he came to love her as a friend and recognized that Beth needed him more as a friend than a romantic partner.


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Harry elaborated, saying, “I think that was the thing I kept thinking about with Harry was, he really loves her. He really truly loves her. Yes, in a romantic way at points, but actually beyond that he just really loves her and really cares for her. And that kind of became the thing that, certainly towards the end of that arc, was something I really wanted to hone into.”

10.

In terms of playing chess, Harry didn’t know how to play before starting and he was “terrified” he would disappoint real chess players who were watching the show.


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Harry hilariously said, “I was terrified about the chess because I didn’t know how to play and I thought, how disappointing if you’re watching The Queen’s Gambit and thought, ‘Well that actor clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.'”

11.

He leaned a lot on Bruce Pandolfini, who was one of the chess consultants on The Queen’s Gambit, and Bruce helped him figure out how to move the chess pieces as if he’d been doing it forever.


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Harry explained working side-by-side with Bruce, saying, “It was great because he wasn’t interested in sort of the logical way to move pieces, that obviously was his homework, ours was to make sure that when we move the pieces right, it was like we’d been doing it our entire lives.”

12.

All of the moves were pre-planned before filming a scene, so Harry explained that “repetition” was key to remembering where to move the pieces during a match.


Charlie Gray / Netflix

“It was just repetition. Just doing it again and again and again. So that when the cameras are rolling, you’re just doing it,” Harry said. “It’s funny filming, sometimes the simplest thing can become really complicated, and the most complicated thing can be really simple. You just never know. I had these nightmares of like, you know, first day on set and having to move a chess piece and just [shaking]. You just don’t know what will happen, so you just try and give yourself a safety net of, ‘If I do this as many times as I possibly can, then I won’t even think about it.’ That’s kind of where you want to be.”

13.

There was a massive spreadsheet on set that had every single chess match mapped out and showed how every game started, progressed, and ended.


Phil Bray / Netflix

Harry said, “Bruce showed me this big spreadsheet of all the games and what happens and, you know, these little sort of figures that moved to show you the games, and we could get them if we wanted to, in order to practice our specific games. It was really meticulously thought through.”

14.

Every single character had a very specific way they had to move the chess pieces, which Bruce helped them come up with.


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Harry explained, “It literally was repetition and working out how you move the pieces and also the style in which you move the pieces. Bruce kept saying that every single player should have their own style and that we focus on particular players who we like {and who] we might want to steal some things off of.”

15.

For Harry Beltik, Harry came up with a way to move the chess piece that was very “delicate” to match Harry’s “delicate nature” in life.


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“I remember when I moved my piece I wanted to go very straight to the piece and I thought there was something quite delicate and sort of nimble about that,” he said. “I thought maybe it would work with Harry’s delicate nature and so that was kind of where I went.”

16.

In fact, coming up with how Harry played chess was one of Harry’s favorite parts of the rehearsal process because it allowed him to build the character of Harry from the ground up.


Phil Bray / Netflix

“I found all that stuff really interesting and very useful in the beginning. Doing your character and having these things to sort of, help you slowly build your character,” Harry explained. “Building blocks of where you want to get to because I remember that was quite an early stage of the shooting and rehearsal.”

17.

When trying to come up with how to move the pieces, Harry did something and Bruce immediately told him, “Well, no, that’s very Benny,” so Harry had to adjust.


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Harry recalled the moment, saying, “I thought that was interesting. I can’t remember what exactly it was. It could’ve been like hitting the clock with a piece or something a bit more arrogant.”

18.

One of Harry’s favorite scenes to film was in the series finale when Beth’s friends all wait to hear that she’s won the match against Borgov.


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“I didn’t have any scenes with Thomas [Brodie-Sangster] before this moment, you know, all my scenes were with Anya,” he said. “So to find yourself in a scene with sort of the family that Beth collects by the end of the series, and us waiting for this phone call to hear the noise. It was actually genuine sort of joy and excitement.”

19.

Harry explained that the scenes with all of Beth’s friends were magical to film because Beth’s found family got to be together for the first time, and it really showcased how she “collects” all of these people in order to build herself a home.


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“Beth hasn’t had the normal family that people have, she’s had a very unconventional upbringing and her journey into womanhood is very different. So this unit of people sort of represented the family that she made,” Harry said. “It was a wonderful thing to shoot. It’s the coming together of all these different characters that we’ve sort of been with for so long.”

20.

In fact, in the script for the series finale, Scott simply wrote “They scream and jump about, like banshees,” and Harry loved seeing that level of excitement coming from Beth’s friends.


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Harry recalled filming this final moment, saying, “It was just such a wonderful, wonderful image of them just being overwhelmed that she did it. You know, and, at the same time, very moving.”

21.

Every piece of dialogue was worked out between Scott Frank and Bruce Pandolfini so that it all sounded authentic


Phil Bray / Netflix

“The characters would say things, and Bruce would be like, ‘But that doesn’t work.’ But of course, every single chess match there is has been worked out within an inch of its self, and it really has. It was amazing,” Harry explained. “If there were any inconsistencies [in the games or in] what characters said, then Scott would talk to Bruce and they’d come up with a solution that would make sense for all those very keen chess players out there watching The Queen’s Gambit.”

22.

The moment Harry is most proud of from The Queen’s Gambit is when Harry gives the pills to Beth and leaves her house.

Harry telling Beth, "Be careful, Beth"


Netflix

Harry said, “I’m particularly fond of when I read it, the scene when Harry leaves the house. He gives Beth the pills to say, ‘I know what’s going on here. And I think it’s better that I go and let you know, you know, come to terms by yourself as to what you’re up to, and what you’re doing and what you want and who you are.’ I found that very moving.”

23.

And, one of the things he was constantly thinking about while filming this scene is that it’s not a time to feel sorry for Harry or pay attention to Harry, it’s a massive moment for Beth’s character.


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“It was very important for me, the actor playing that, not to feel sorry for Harry because that’s not where he is, he’s actually doing this for Beth,” Harry explained. “And so I kept thinking as we were filming that scene, ‘Remember, remember your attention is on the person you’re speaking to. It’s not about you. It’s about her.’ You’re not making a point of going, ‘I’m off because I know you’ve been lying to me.’ It’s for Beth.”

24.

Harry’s last day of filming The Queen’s Gambit featured the scene when Harry confronts Beth in the parking lot, and he said it was “freezing” that day.

Harry looking at Beth in the parking lot and Beth spotting him


Netflix

He said, “My last day was the scene in the car park and it was REALLY freezing, so everyone was very keen to get home after that.”

25.

And finally, Harry didn’t take anything from set, but the entire cast was gifted a chessboard after filming wrapped.


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Harry excitedly recalled, “We got gifted a chessboard at the end of filming, which was really beautiful and really special.”

Be sure to catch Harry Melling in The Queen’s Gambit, which is streaming now on Netflix.



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