The fact that author J.K. Rowling told Alan Rickman a secret about his character Severus Snape has become a Harry Potter legend at this point — especially in light of the latter’s tragic passing last week — and now Rowling has finally revealed what it was that she told Rickman.
When Rickman was wrapping up his work on the Harry Potter films, he coyly revealed that Rowling had imparted him with a crucial bit of information about his character that he said helped him shape his performance of the character.
In addition to her heartfelt eulogy for Rickman last week, Rowling also took to Twitter to respond to a fan asking what she had told Rickman about Snape. Here is her response:
I told Alan what lies behind the word 'always'. https://t.co/NHTJ5J6kxb
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 18, 2016
Rowling’s answer relates to a crucial passage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book in the series, where Snape reveals his unending devotion and love for Harry’s mother Lily. In light of this reveal, Rickman’s comments make a lot more sense in hindsight:
[Speaking to Hitfix in 2011] “[It] helped me think that he was more complicated and that the story was not going to be as straight down the line as everybody thought,” Rickman said. “If you remember when I did the first film she’d only written three or four books, so nobody knew where it was really going except her. And its was important for her that I know something, but she only gave me a tiny piece of information which helped me think it was a more ambiguous route.”
“What I knew was he was a human being and not an automaton and I knew there was some sense of protection for Harry or I worked that out. It was enough to know, I didn’t know he was a double agent.”
Alan Rickman passed away January 14, 2016 from cancer. He was 69.