November 25, 2021

LOS ANGELES — Helen Mirren is oddly absent from the Harry Potter film franchise that proved close to a full-employment act for Britain’s acting greats. But she’s found her own path into its magical world.

Dame Helen, as the Oscar, Emmy and Tony-winning actor is properly addressed, makes her debut as a quiz host with “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses.” The weekly, four-part series begins 8 p.m. EST Sunday on TBS and Cartoon Network.

In episode one, contestants representing the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff houses field trivia questions about J.K. Rowling’s novels-turned-films in a bid to claim a championship trophy and prizes.

Mirren left the cramming to the players and is unworried about being a novice game show emcee.

“I can certainly play a strict host,” she said, drolly, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Mirren’s willingness to take on something different shouldn’t raise eyebrows. She’s celebrated for her regal roles — including “The Queen,” “Elizabeth I” and “Catherine the Great” — but also counts the Fast & the Furious movie franchise among her varied credits.

Her return to a comic book-based project is upcoming: She plays a mythological goddess in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.” Mirren’s baptism in the genre came with the film “Red” and its sequel.

Mirren’s admiration for the Harry Potter series rings true.

“I’m always up for a bit of an adventure. Also, of course, it’s a wonderful subject and at a great moment, the 20th anniversary (of “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first Potter film),” she said. “And the very fact I was never in any Harry Potter movies — much to my chagrin, I might add. It was a great way to to be able to participate in the whole extraordinary phenomena that is Harry Potter.”

Mirren has been open about her feelings about never being apart of the film franchise. “I never actually got to play in the ‘Harry Potter’ films. I don’t know why,” Mirren told Access Online earlier this week, jokingly adding, “I’m rather upset about it quite honestly.”

The franchise’s first film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which premiered in the U.S. Nov. 16, 2001, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton and more of the Hogwarts gang will travel back to the magical school with filmmaker Chris Columbus for an HBO Max special to celebrate the magical milestone.

HBO Max announced the retrospective special, “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts,” last week, corresponding with the anniversary. The special will arrive Jan. 1 and feature in-depth interviews and cast conversations and give a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the franchise, according to a press release.

HBO released a teaser trailer for the special in which we see flashbacks from the Harry Potter films and hear Albus Dumbledore’s voice saying: “Mysterious thing, time. When in doubt, I find retracing my steps a wise place to begin.”

Mirren told AP she remembers “when the whole world of Harry Potter started rising. The most magical thing is the way the books were passed from hand to hand amongst kids, and adults sort of didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t like it was published with great fanfare. A lot of the people who’ll be competing (on the show), they will be in their 20s, 30s, 40s, but they will have past experience with Harry Potter as a kid.”

To take on the hosting gig, Mirren said she “thought I’d just play it by ear and be as natural as I could. I’m personally very excited about it, so hopefully I’ll communicate that. I’ll be probably as nervous as the contestants themselves, and I’ll try to hide that.”