James Howard plays Draco Malfoy in the London production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Here's what he learnt about this divisive character while portraying him.

“...It is exceptionally lonely, being Draco Malfoy...”

So comes a heartfelt and powerfully honest admission from someone who has never openly revealed any weakness, especially not to his greatest rival - Harry Potter.

Playing Draco Malfoy on stage is not just a hugely exciting challenge. It comes with a backstory so rich that it is impossible not to feel the weight of family history bearing down on him. As he also admits: ‘I will always be suspected. There is no escaping the past.'

What makes these lines so powerful to play is that after all the illusions and epic events of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, this scene between the two arch rivals is just that - two men standing on stage together opening up about their pasts, their mistakes and their fears for their children. It’s my favourite scene to play.

When we first meet the adult Draco in our story, he is already showing the burdens of his past. Although happily married to Astoria and with a son and heir - something his father would be relieved about - the Malfoys are still trapped by their past connections with Voldemort. So much so that Scorpius is rumoured to not even be a Malfoy, but the son of the Dark Lord.

His first interaction with Harry is to ask him a favour to help discredit the rumours, but his pleas are ignored - and so revives the rivalry and mistrust between the two men. For most of the first part of Cursed Child we see many of the old traits of Draco - his sneering view towards Muggles and Mudbloods, especially towards Hermione Granger as the Minister for Magic; and his sense of superiority over his old school acquaintances, including Potter and Ron Weasley.

The fun challenge in playing Draco is not to shy away from these darker parts of his character. His childhood was a deeply traumatic experience and the influence of his father has shaped a lot of his personality, no matter how hard Astoria has tried to help him change. I truly don’t believe that Draco was ever really a bad person. He was just an insecure boy with parents who encouraged him to behave as a superior wizard.

As he says to Harry and Ginny in Cursed Child, 'I think you have to make a choice - at a certain point - of the man you want to be. And I tell you that at that time you need a parent or a friend. And if you’ve learnt to hate your parents by then and you have no friends... then you’re all alone. And being alone - that’s so hard.' The thing that terrifies Draco so much is that the horrors of his childhood are being revisited on his son, and his love and protection of Scorpius becomes the single most important thing in his life.

He also admits to being envious of Harry’s friendships with Ron and Hermione, and only after this admission does he begin to move closer to a potential future truce between them all. If adult Draco shows us anything, it is that we can all turn over a new leaf, and become less isolated by showing that we are all capable of change.