*NEW YORK – Journalists trekked in from all over the globe to converge on the Waldorf Astoria on Sunday to talk to the cast and filmmakers of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” which eclipses Part 1 in performances and special effects. The gathering was a momentous occasion not only for the fact that this film ends the “Harry Potter” legacy films based on the seven books, but more importantly it makes a bold statement about morality, responsibility, courage, honor and friendship.

Also, it made a statement about race relations. When I interviewed Chris Columbus for the first Harry Potter film I asked him about the presence of black students at Hogwarts. He said it was always in J.K. Rowling’s plans to show diversity. In “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Potter romanced an Asian girl. Quite the ladies’ man in “The Half-Blood Prince,” Potter became enamored with a black waitress. Before his anticipated date, Harry was whisked away by Dumbledore to fight demons. When Potter protested, Dumbledore remarked, “She was very pretty.” Ron Weasley’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright) love interest-before she dumps him for Potter-was black actor Alfie Enoch and they shared an onscreen kiss. In addition to the minglings and attractions, George Harris (Kingsley) stood out not only in stature for one of Harry’s protectors.

A major force in Harry’s life and the franchise is Emma Watson (Hermione Granger). If there was ever any excuse for an actress to misbehave, drink, do drugs or go without underwear and expose yourself in public, twenty-one year old Emma Watson would be that excuse because she is a star in the true sense of the word. Instead, this classy, beautiful, talented young woman that has been acting since the age of ten in a franchise that has grossed over $6 billion worldwide is poised and astute.  Although I could think of many, The Film Strip asked Watson what character traits did she think she shared with Hermione? “Not so much now, but I guess earnestness, an eager to please and do the right thing,” she said.

“I’m terrified of ever getting into trouble. I’m very heady in the same way that she is, kind of constantly thinking three or four moves ahead. I try and intellectualize a lot, which she does as well, obviously. She’s very determined. I am as well. I like to think that I’m very loyal in the same way as she is. A bit of a feminist in the same way as she is and I will speak my mind in the same way that she does. It’s hard to say, really. I feel so much of me went into her and so much of her went into me that I can’t really differentiate too much anymore.”

Commenting on an important scene in the film she explained that, “It’s so funny, in a way this one was incredibly challenging for me. It really pushed me as an actress, but at the same time I was able to use a lot of my own genuine emotion that I felt about loss and all of it coming to an end. I was able to bring how I was feeling to the role. So, the scene where we stand on the bridge off to battle and before we flash forward, I remember just really feeling exactly how I guess Hermione would be feeling, just sort of like, ‘Wow. It’s all coming to an end.  Look at all we’ve achieved.’ The set was actually built looking out over Leavesden Studios, which is where I grew up, essentially. I spent the last twelve years there.”

Believe it or not, Rupert Grint used a rap video he had done for his audition to play the role of Ron Weasley.  With that in mind, I asked Grint how closely related is his Ron to Rupert?  “I have always felt this close connection to Ron throughout all the films,” he stated.  “After 10 years playing the same guy every day, I think you do naturally morph into him. We have become Ronpert, which I think will stay with me for a while. There will always be a bit of Ron in me for the rest of my life.” Watson was very emotional at the London premiere and cried. Grint is as equally moved at the ending of a great run. “It has been quite emotional and seeing the film as well, I did get quite choked up at the end,” he said sadly. “There’s this one scene where it’s the three of us after the battle and we are walking on the bridge and the castle is destroyed behind us. It felt kind of parallel with our own lives really, yeah, it’s quite sad because I’m going to really miss it.”

The other part of the triumvirate, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), was doing a play on Broadway and was not in attendance. When he was cast in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” as a singer and dancer, I was not surprised having interviewed all three for seven of the films, I asked Radcliffe what he would be doing if was not acting and he said he would be in a band. Tom Felton, Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy on the other hand, is a musician. He shared his feelings about the last Harry Potter film:

“I mean I’m really intrigued to see what the fans make of the final film. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We really feel like this is the reason why we’ve made the last seven films was so we could get to this final chapter. So we’re very excited about that and obviously all good things come to an end and we’re just excited to end on a high note. Personally it’s kind of nerve wracking but equally an exciting time because we don’t know what’s around the corner, so that’s always something fun.”

Nevertheless, he will keep in touch. “Of course I’ll be in touch. It’s tricky because most of us are in four different corners of the world at one time. But I was very lucky to finally see Daniel’s show last night, which for those who haven’t seen it, it is unbelievable. Very strange to see him up there after 10 years of seeing him as Harry, but he did an unbelievable job. “I think it’s the kind of friendship or relationship that I don’t think is going to die regardless of how many years we spend apart from each other because we had a very unique experience and we’ve all kind of done it together. And I feel very lucky that I’ve got a dozen or so other youngsters who have shared the experience with me.” I would say it’s more than a dozen, Tom.