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Child refugee who fled from war-torn Sierra Leone wins role in new Harry Potter film

Child refugee who fled from war-torn Sierra Leone wins role in new Harry Potter film thumbnail

A former child refugee who fled the terrors of war-torn Sierra Leone has finally got some magic in her life – by winning a role in the new Harry Potter movie.

Margotu Margai, 19, spent the first few years of her life living in fear of her life as rebel soldiers stormed the West African country, burning villages and slaughtering men, women and children.

But when her mother was allowed to live and work in Britain as a nurse, Margotu landed a coveted place at the prestigious Italia Conti Stage School, following in the footsteps of top stars such as Naomi Campbell, Kelly Brook and Russell Brand.

In the movies: Margotu Margai has landed a coveted role in the new Harry Potter movie – a far cry from her perilous existence in war-torn Sierra Leone

She made it through to last year’s Miss Black Britain finals – then became the envy of her friends, beating off hundreds of hopefuls to play a Hogwarts pupil in the Hufflepuff house in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

The aspiring actress has been working hard filming scenes alongside the all-star cast for the latest instalment in the magical boy-wizard franchise, due out in November.

Margotu Margai

Margotu Margai

Beauty: Margotu says filming for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has been an experience she will never forget

Beauty: Margotu says filming for Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has been an experience she will never forget Margotu of Barking, London, said: ‘It’s so surreal. I’ve read all the books and seen all the Harry Potter films but I’m still trying to believe I’ve got a role in the film given the fact I could have been shot dead all those years ago.

‘In Sierra Leone other people’s houses were being burnt, ransacked and the people were being maimed or murdered.

‘A soldier came into my house and looked straight at me – and the simply carried on walking. I’ll never forget the way he looked straight at me.

‘Yet the other day I was just eating my lunch and got chatting to Daniel Radcliffe. It was only for a few minutes but he was really nice.’ 

Margotu was raised by her aunt and uncle in Sierra Leone after her parents began working in England hoping to create a better life.

She said: ‘There was another occasion when the soldiers came and my Aunt had me hid under the bed and they didn’t find us.

‘I just remember my Aunt saying just be quiet and close your eyes. We had to flee our town to somewhere safe so we went to Guinea. ‘

When the civil war died down in 1997, Margotu’s mum picked up her daughter to take her to London where she lived in one bedroomed flat with her mum, dad and met the younger sister she’d never known.

A soldier came into my house and looked straight at me – and the simply carried on walking

She vowed to follow a career in performing arts and auditioned for several stage schools before getting a place at Italia Conti, where she enrolled last September before entering the Miss Black Britain contest.

She was then put forward as an extra for the Harry Potter movie by the college and met the stars, including Radcliffe, on set.

She added: ‘We’ve talked about random things, but I can remember the first time we spoke and that was because he overheard me say that I was nervous on my first day of filming. He told me not to worry and that I’ll get used to it after the first take. He really helped me to calm down and just have fun.

harry Potter

Stardom: Margotu, 19, met the stars of the film on set – left to right – Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson)

‘I’ve met most of the cast and I respect all of them because what they do is not easy. I’ve learnt a lot from just watching how they approach things and deliver their lines.

‘Dan is really good at staying focused and giving 100 per cent every time.

‘When I heard I was going to be an extra I was so excited because it was a dream come true. When the first film came out I told my mum that I wish I could be in it, but that I WILL be in it and funny enough it happened.

‘My name was on the agency board in college where the whole school could see – other people found out before me so I ran over to the board and saw my name, I was like ‘yes!’, I was just so happy and wanted to start straight away.

I could’ve been shot dead but I wasn’t. I know how it feels to truly have nothing. I’m going to grab this opportunity with both hands

‘I still get excited at the thought of being on the set. The scene that took place in the great hall was amazing, a surreal feeling, so much detail that everything I saw was recognisable from the films.

‘No matter how many times we saw the set we’d still be in awe. It’s truly an amazing experience and something I’d never forget.

‘It’s long hours and really hard work but I’m hoping it will lead on to better things.

‘I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, I could’ve been shot dead but I wasn’t. I know how it feels to truly have nothing, I’m going to grab this opportunity with both hands.’ 

The 11 year Sierra Leone Civil War was officially declared over in 2002, but Margotu’s home country is still in strife and she knows it is unlikely she will ever be able to go back home.

Despite being rich in minerals and diamond mines, Sierra Leone is still ranked the third lowest country in the Human Development Index and seventh lowest on the Human Poverty Index.

Daily Mail, UK

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