Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Josephine Langford have quite literally grown up onscreen. The pair spent the last four years helming the wildly popular After series as the two famous main characters, Hardin and Tessa, and the films, which were adapted from One Direction fan fiction (yes, you read that correctly), have garnered a phenomenal youth following which could rival the likes of Twilight and The Hunger Games.
Now, as the fourth instalment is released in theatres this week, Fiennes Tiffin has come to realise just how big a difference four years can make.
“I feel like it’s night and day when I come out to [interviews] now compared to the first time, when I didn’t know what to expect—but now I’ve done it a few times I can come into it with more authenticity,” the 24-year-old tells marie claire Australia in a Zoom chat shortly before the film’s release.
“I can bring my best self to it rather than being nervous about saying the wrong thing or dropping a massive spoiler,” he adds. “So yea now the nerves are gone I get to enjoy it.”
And enjoy it, he certainly is. Fiennes Tiffin, whose prior portfolio included the not-so-little role of playing a young Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, didn’t quite know what to expect when it came to playing the complicated character of Hardin, whose troubled past has a habit of feeding into his current relationships.
The After series sees Tessa and Hardin navigate their way through their early years of college between their fiery romance, and in After Ever Happy, we see Hardin struggle with a revelation about his past, while Tessa suffers a personal tragedy. As they work through their losses, they come to realise that they’re not so different from each other after all—Tessa is no longer the innocent, happy-go-lucky woman she once was, while Hardin is becoming more aware of how his moody and cruel habits impact the people around him.
“Fans have grown up with these characters,” Fiennes Tiffin explains when asked what it was like to bring After Ever Happy‘s dark themes to life. “That allows us to be a bit more explicit and true to reality with things like alcoholism and mental health and getting over trauma.”
“In the first film I was just trying not to be late and to say the lines right and to walk in a straight line,” he laughs. “But now, with me and my co-stars having had more life experience, we have a better understanding of [the themes] so we can represent them onscreen.”
It begs the question: After bringing an infamous (and fictional) toxic relationship to the screen, what advice would Fiennes Tiffin give to someone who suspects red flag activity in their own relationship?
“It’s a fine line to tread so I’m careful not to give general advice to loads of people in different circumstances, but I do think that if you can see the spark there and the love is there and you can help each other heal and grow, then that’s the kind of the best alternative,” he explains.
“Like if [the flags] are dark orange and you think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you think you’ll be able to overcome everything then why not? Why not go for it?”
That said, he has one final pointer: “When the flag is red, run for the hills!”
Where can you watch After Ever Happy in Australia?
After Ever Happy has now been released in cinemas nationwide.
If you want to catch up on the other films from the After series, you can stream them all via Amazon Prime, sign up for a 30 day free trial here.