Alan Rickman, the stage and screen giant whose death was announced Thursday, spoke to a few years back about the joys of starring in the Harry Potter movies and how he viewed the darker characters he was best known for playing.

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After gaining a reputation as a stage actor in England, Rickman landed his first Hollywood role in Die Hard as terror cell leader Hans Gruber. Rickman also played the fantastically insufferable and antagonistic Professor Severus Snape in all eight films of the screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series, solidifying his reputation as a go-to actor for villainous roles.

“I never attach a label to any character that I play,” Rickman told uInterview, shrugging off the penchant for villainy of many of his characters. “Maybe you know, there’s some part of the answer in that they’re all just people to me. They want different things, and I don’t make any differences between some of the darker characters that I’ve played or some of the sweeter souls that I’ve played.”

As Harry Potter fans know, while Snape long appeared to be the black-cloaked embodiment of evil, in the end there proved to be significantly more complexity to the character. When uInterview interviewed Rickman as he was promoting Noble Son, the last few Harry Potter films had yet to hit theaters, but Rickman hinted then that no one had his character all figured out yet.

“Playing Professor Snape, it’s such a kind of sense of a continuous energy,” Rickman said. “What’s he thinking? What’s he doing? What’s he about? Nobody should really know right until the end.”

For Rickman, one of the most rewarding aspects of starring in Harry Potter had little to do with himself. Of all the extraordinary aspects of the experience, Rickman singled out having the opportunity to watch the film series’ three main stars – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – evolve into movie stars on screen and remain grounded young people off of it.

“It’s been an extraordinary experience, and kind of unique, especially to work with something so worldwide on the one hand, and something that’s involved, specifically, three young people go from 12-19,” Rickman said. “And they’re still sane, which is remarkable.”

Rickman passed away after a short battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Rima Horton, and leaves behind an impressive body of stage and screen work.

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