Matthew Lewis Remembers First Day on “Harry Potter” Set — Filming on a Broomstick: 'I Was Terrified' (Exclusive)

The actor, who played Neville Longbottom in the series, got back on a broomstick at the Harry Potter New York store

<p>Jun Sato/WireImage; Warner Brothers</p> Matthew Lewis in 2023; Matthew Lewis in

Jun Sato/WireImage; Warner Brothers

Matthew Lewis in 2023; Matthew Lewis in 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'

When Matthew Lewis started filming Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 2000 (at age 11), he was quite quickly introduced to life as a wizard — and that meant flying on a broomstick!

While speaking with PEOPLE at an event celebrating wondrous new additions to the Harry Potter New York store, Lewis, 34, recalled having to "fly" on his very first day on set.

"I was terrified because the scene was all about Neville, and it was literally just a broomstick that they sat me on and strapped me to," he tells PEOPLE. "Then what they'd done is they'd stuck it on a crane, and then put the crane on the back of a pickup truck, and then just drove the pickup truck around in circles in Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, and filmed it. Then they had these contraptions — like a medieval trebuchet — and one had the broomstick on it, and it would just rotate like a corkscrew. Again, I was strapped to it. My poor stuntman [David Holmes] was as well."

<p>Warner Bros.</p> Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Warner Bros.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Related: Harry Potter Star Matthew Lewis Reveals Why It Is 'Painful' to Re-Watch Himself in the Films 

Fans will recall Neville Longbottom's unfortunate first attempt at flying in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) when students are first learning to fly on their broomsticks. Neville lifts off the ground with little control over his broomstick — unsurprising for his character.

Lewis says despite the chaos of how those early scenes were filmed, he always felt safe. Eventually as the Harry Potter films got more technologically advanced, the flying scenes did too.

"I think they were just making it up as they went along [early on]," he says with a laugh. "Then as the years went on, it all got very cool. As the films went on, they got much more sophisticated."

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Lewis got back on a broomstick while at the Harry Potter New York store. In addition to bringing in new movie props, the store is adding a new greenscreen experience for customers to fly through London and Hogwarts. The actor says it felt like a "when in Rome" moment, even though he's avoided all broomstick riding at other Harry Potter-related events over the years.

"It did take me back," he says of the nostalgic moment. "But I'd much prefer sitting in these ones than the one they had me sitting in!"

Related: 'Harry Potter' 's Matthew Lewis Shares Photo of Hogwarts, Tom Felton Jokes 'I Used to Bully Him'

<p>Courtesy Harry Potter New York</p> Matthew Lewis at Harry Potter New York Store in June 2024

Courtesy Harry Potter New York

Matthew Lewis at Harry Potter New York Store in June 2024

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Lewis starred in all eight Harry Potter films over the course of a decade and continues to promote the franchise through events and conventions. He PEOPLE that despite the magnitude of it all, he still finds himself surprised by how much Potter lore has grown over the years.

"I always thought that people would tire of it," he says of the Harry Potter universe. "I thought that people would get fatigued with it. We signed up for two movies. I genuinely thought we'd do two movies, mostly because I'm a cynic."

He continues, "I just thought it was too good to be true. I signed up for three and four, thought they'd be done after four, signed up for five and six, done after six. Not until I got the contract for Deathly Hallows one and two did I really think that we'd go all the way."

Now the actor meets fans from all over the world who tell him how much the books and movies mean to them. It's something he says he'll never take for granted.

"It means so much to people. I feel very protective of it in that way."

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