Alan Rickman is basically my favorite actor ever. He’s been my favorite since I was a preteen, so it’s been years of intense crushing and admiration. As you can imagine, when I found out this morning that he passed away from cancer at 69 years old, I was devastated.
Alan Rickman taught me many things over the years, which might seem weird to say, but it’s true. As a poet, I often perform my writing at readings; it was Rickman’s performances that influenced me–he’s famous for his meticulous tone and intonation–and watching his performances taught me how to enunciate and express emotion.
But more than that, Rickman recently became famous for playing Severus Snape, one of the most beloved and hated characters in the “Harry Potter” series, which is a series that has defined a generation of kids and adults. His portrayal of Snape became cherished among young fans–Rowling has often discussed how complex the character truly is, having been quoted as saying that “Snape is all grey.”
Since his death, Daniel Radcliffe, the Jewish actor who played Harry Potter in the films, wrote a heartfelt letter about how supportive and generous Rickman was, stating:
“He is also, one of the loyalest and most supportive people I’ve ever met in the film industry. He was so encouraging of me both on set and in the years post-Potter. I’m pretty sure he came and saw everything I ever did on stage both in London and New York. He didn’t have to do that. I know other people who’ve been friends with him for much much longer than I have and they all say “if you call Alan, it doesn’t matter where in the world he is or how busy he is with what he’s doing, he’ll get back to you within a day.”
As an actor he was one of the first of the adults on Potter to treat me like a peer rather than a child. Working with him at such a formative age was incredibly important and I will carry the lessons he taught me for the rest of my life and career. “
Rickman’s perfect portrayal of Snape is not just cinematic genius, but teaches us a few lessons along the way:
1. No one is “all good” or “all bad.” We all have bits of good and evil within us, and it’s just about deciding and choosing how to be the best version of ourselves we can. And also forgiving each other for not always doing the right thing.
2. It’s important not to judge others based on your first impression. Because there’s always so much more beneath the surface, and we’re all suffering and dealing with our own issues.
3. It’s never too late to forgive. Harry hates Snape in most of the series, and it’s only until the very last pages that Harry realizes Snape actually chose to save the wizarding world, that he did in fact love other people. Because of this, Harry found the strength to forgive Snape, and in many ways, himself.
4. Doing the right thing is not always fun or easy. Actually, it’s pretty hard, and most of Snape’s actions in the book are pretty hard and unlikeable. I mean, he has to deal with Harry’s foolishness for seven years, and he (spoiler alert) has to kill Dumbledore for Voldemort to actually die. (Kind of a crummy deal, eh?) But he also proves that doing the right thing is worth it, even if the journey isn’t fun.
5. Just because you’ve made mistakes and bad decisions doesn’t mean you’re unloveable, or that you can’t change. This is a big lesson we all need to learn, because none of us are perfect, and we all deserve love. And the chance to change for the better.
6. Reading closely, and twice (or more!), will help you catch the small details. OK, I know this is the former teacher in me coming out, but it’s such a valuable lesson to learn, because it comes in handy later on in life (like when you go on dates, get a job, or you know, continue reading books for fun).
7. Loyalty means everything, and can truly make all the difference in the world. Snape’s loyalty to Lily, Harry, and Dumbledore essentially ensured Voldemort’s demise. Even on a personal level, knowing you can rely on someone, and that you have someone to talk to, is the difference between knowing you are loved, and feeling alone.
8. Never be anything less than your authentic self. Being genuine and authentic is a lot better than forgetting you who are. Even though he definitely wasn’t always pleasant, he was always himself.
9. Love is always worth it, even if it doesn’t work out the way you want. He didn’t end up with Lily the way he wanted, but he kept loving her despite that fact. That’s a pretty brave way to live.
When the “Harry Potter” movies ended in 2011, Rickman wrote a touching goodbye letter for Empire Magazine: “A lifetime seems to have passed in minutes…Thanks for all of it, Jo.”
Take a few minutes out of your day and watch this video a fan compiled of the best Snape moments over the years:
What are some of your favorite Alan Rickman and/or Snape moments? Tell us in the comments below.