Named for his paternal grandfather, Gravenor has called his nickname and eventual stage name "very necessary", and that "even [his] own mother has difficult pronouncing [Llewellyn] proper[ly]". In Welsh, ll creates a voiceless lateral fricative, which can be difficult to pronounce, even with the simplified English substitution of chl (as in "loch"). When Gravenor himself has said his given name aloud, he's either subtly used the proper Welsh, or used the generally accepted pronunication of ll as simply representing one l. Though he's been coy on why he'd chosen "Wells" and where it came from, in an early Harry Potter interview from 2004, Gravenor shed a bit more light on the subject. "It's such a dad thing to come up with dreadful pet names, right? Mine always went around all, 'Wells this' and 'Welly that', and I spent all of school fighting off all the worst nicknames my name's got to offer [...] I suppose I came out alright with the most decent one in the end." In a recent Twitter Q&A, he mentioned he'd almost gone by "Lew", but "tossed it aside, in a sense of misplaced Welsh pride." He added, however, that being called Lew by Marianne Faithfull on the set of Paris, Je T'aime when he was seventeen was "one of the greatest things ever." He remains credited as "Llewellyn Gravenor" in the early Potter films, as he hadn't gone by Wells professionally until 2005, with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban being the first. Though he's occasionally asked, he's never changed it legally.
Though self-described as "entirely ill-prepared for this new life as an inexperienced actor thrust into an immensely popular international film franchise for half [his] life" on his personal tumblr blog, Gravenor seemed to find solidarity and grew incredibly close with his Harry Potter castmates, as they all essentially spent their formative years together. As many of the core Potter cast can attest, however, adjusting to life after the series' conclusion proved a bigger challenge than during, especially for Gravenor, given he'd originally never planned on or even was much interested in being an actor, and the role he'd played for a decade was, aside from a few very minor roles elsewhere, all he'd known at the time. He's described the financial and creative freedom of post-Potter life, when asked his plans: "It's mad, right? I've made it through my most awkward stage of life with everyone watching, and now I've no reason to work again unless I want to. So, I suppose I'm off to throw money about the pub and read some really dodgy scripts, yeah?" He's said on multiple occasions that acting (along with singing) is simply something he "found [himself] good at", and claims he has little passion in it, beyond "satiating [his] own boredom by doing whatever [he wants]." In several interviews at the Cannes Film Festival (of which his mother is the standing communications director), while promoting Lars Von Trier's controversial Nymphomaniac, Gravenor smirked that he liked to take roles that would most effectively disappoint his mother - "without whom the Potter whirlwind of [his] life would be possible" - as a sort of playful revenge that endures to this day.
Having been partially raised in Paris and thus being fluent in French has afforded Gravenor the freedom to take on French films as well, which grew to embrace and almost prefer as a break from the Potter series. Along with his debut French film Les Choristes, he also had a small role in Gus Van Sant's segment "La Marais" of the 2006 anthology film, Paris Je T'aime, where he played a young artist attempting to flirt with a young American man, not knowing he doesn't speak French. To his slight dismay, this gained him a particular amount of attention within the Harry Potter fan community, due to the subject matter, and because many simply didn't know he spoke the language. He went on to take a small role in Lisa Azuelos' French teen comedy, LOL, and later starred in Michel Leclerc's 2012 comedy, Télé Gaucho / Pirate TV, as his first major role after the conclusion of the Potter series. During its promotion, he found many did not seem to recognize him from his earlier work: "It's weird, it's like I'm practically anonymous in French now, it's right fun."
As he'd allegedly found the accent difficult and didn't want to "stick out as a British sore thumb", Gravenor mostly avoided American roles - until the right one seemed to come along for him in the form of Ryan Murphy's anthology "American Horror Story". After a lengthy audition process, Gravenor accepted a significant role in the forth season mini-series, subtitled "Freak Show", as "Lobster Boy" Jimmy Darling. He cites this role as his most challenging to date, requiring not only acting skills he's nearly never had the chance to exercise previously, but also a southern American accent, and hand prothetics. Despite that, and casting announcement anecdotes of how he was "more frightened of the role than the subject matter", Gravenor has said on multiple occasions that this was his favorite part he'd ever taken, and he "didn't regret a single moment of it." The season was very well-recieved, becoming FX's most-watched program in its history, and earned twenty Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series.
Earlier that year in 2014, he'd taken on the role of duplicitious law student Connor Walsh, in fledgling ABC legal drama, "How To Get Away With Murder", helmed by famed ABC showrunner Shonda Rhimes. The series began as a nine-episode "trial", and was originally considered a limited series, due to Viola Davis' filming schedules of other projects. Because of this, Gravenor's described Shonda Rhimes and the production crew to be "really welcoming, yet really accomodating of our individual careers and schedules. And that's brilliant to have in a cast basically full of young actors." Gravenor was photographed partying and celebrating in New Orleans, while nearly wrapped on "American Horror Story: Freak Show" in October 2014, when "How To Get Away With Murder" was picked up as a full series. He claims that though he'd never doubted getting picked up, he was pleasantly surprised. "I'm excited, and I can't imagine why. My life's about to be a whole lot busier." Gravenor's recieved a lot of praise for his portrayal of the smirky and unapologetically gay law student, and has become a fan favorite on the show, which itself has been honored with many acknowledgements from the NAACP and GLAAD, along with Viola Davis' Primetime Emmy Awards win for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, and two SAG Awards for the same. The series' third season renewal was announced on March 3, 2016.
In March 2016, Gravenor was confirmed as being cast as Daniel Rand, the titular character, in Netflix's upcoming Marvel series "Iron Fist", by showrunner Scott Buck. His casting was the final piece of the principal cast of Netflix's collection of series featuring The Defenders, along with Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. Despite the inevitable criticism that comes with casting any live-action comic book adaptation, Buck defended Gravenor's casting: "Danny Rand is a a billionaire New York Buddhist monk martial arts superhero who’s still trying to figure out what exactly that all means, he's very complicated. Wells is able to play all these levels in such an honest, revelatory way that as soon as I saw him I knew he was our Danny." Gravenor has made little comment on the announcement thus far, but has very often alluded to and complained about assumedly related training and gym time on social media. Production has not yet begun on the series, but is slated for premiere in November, 2016, though it's also been rumored and likely that his character may be introduced in the upcoming "Luke Cage" series first.
In January 2015, Gravenor starred in a music video for Sia's solo version of "Elastic Heart", from her album 1000 Forms of Fear, alongside then-thirteen-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler. The clip, co-directed by Sia herself, features the pair clad only in dirt-smeared, flesh-colored dancewear, "dance-fighting" and emotionally reacting to one another's interpretive movements in a giant metal cage. It was nominated for the 2015 VMA for Best Female Video and selected by Billboard and Vulture as one of their best music videos of the year, and recieved more than 570 million views on Youtube as of March 2016. Despite all the accolades, however, many critics took issue with the depiction of a male adult and a female child dancing together, percieving it as pedophilic. Sia eventually apologized for the misunderstanding: "All I can say is Maddie and Wells are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring 'Sia' self states. I apologize to those who feel triggered by 'Elastic Heart'. My intention was to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody." Gravenor has never commented himself about the controversy directly, though admitted in a recent Twitter Q&A that he's a "dreadful dancer" and "had to work out an awful lot for all that", given that climbing up the cage was "real shit, all me". That aside, he also called the clip as a whole "truly raw and beautiful".
Gravenor's role in Lars Von Trier's epic art film Nymphomaniac also drew controversy, due to the film's promise of "intense unsimulated sex scenes" and the misunderstanding of what that meant. During the 2012 Cannes Film Festival (of which his mother is the communications director), Gravenor fueled the intrigue by vaguely speaking of this unusual feature: "Everything's happening in the film. When I first read the script, there's this massive disclaimer at the top, saying this is all real, all of it. What's illegal's getting blurred, but it's all happening. And it's right terrifying, you know? Von Trier is utterly mad, completely dangerous, and I fucking love it." Whilst promoting the film, Gravenor tweeted a video clip of the aforementioned interview, with simply "Hi, Mom" as commentary. Needless to say, though the sex scenes of Nymphomaniac were indeed unsimulated, the film featured body doubles superimposed with the actors' performances.
■ His page on IMDB identifies one of his "trademarks" as "resting bitch face", and simply lists a series of misspellings of his name under "alternate names".
■ Despite his Welsh roots, he actually cannot speak much Welsh at all. He is, however, fluent in French, and usually ends up softening his natural Welsh accent to a more received pronunciation, as in the Harry Potter series, to varying degrees of success as he grew older. He's recently worked with dialect coaches on his current American productions, as he finds that the most difficult, but actually seemed to surprise many American fans with his real accent on promotional circuits. As much as he complains, however, he truly enjoys the challenge of putting on another voice, which he cited often during press for "American Horror Story: Freak Show", in particular.
■ Has performed voiceover for the character of Harry (as well as Neville and occasional others) in the French language dubbed versions of the Harry Potter series.
■ Awards: Nominated for a César Award in 2013 for Most Promising Actor for Télé Gaucho / Pirate TV. Les Choristes / The Chorus was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 2005.
■ Was a choir boy as a child, and has always used his real voice in roles that required him to sing. He's appeared on the soundtracks for Les Choristes, Hunky Dory, and most recently in "American Horror Story: Freak Show", singing Nirvana. Musical-based Hunky Dory was one of his favorite films he's done, particularly singing David Bowie.
■ Has several tattoos, most noticeably on his arms, which has always been a point of contention with his mother, who felt they'd limit his ability to be cast in desirable projects. In her "honor", he got the French word "pourquoi" very low on his back as a pun in response to her constant demand of "but why?" regarding his tattoos. As it is, he's reluctantly grown to be quite used to long stretches in the makeup chair to cover them up, and now often includes some clause about it in his contracts.
■ His younger sister, Gillian, was an extra in three of the Potter films.
■ Is proudly left-handed, which he has unwittingly imposed upon the canon of Neville Longbottom, as he is not only seen holding his wand and otherwise writing with his left hand several times throughout the films, but was notably holding Godric Gryffindor's sword in his left hand in publicity photos for the final film.
■ Has always been a big fan of horror and the macabre, and has amassed a small collection of oddities, including several taxidermy pieces and artifacts. He famously lent his Beauchene "exploded" human skull piece to the "AHS: Freak Show" set as a background prop, and liked to joke it was cursed. At the conclusion of the series, he was able to take home one of artist Molly Magwire's circus banners for "Lobster Boy", which is framed and displayed in his kitchen.
■ Accidentally had his eardrum ruptured while filming Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, when Helena Bonham Carter, as Bellatrix Lestrange, stuck her wand in his ear and he flinched. Thankfully, he only sustained minor internal bleeding.
■ Owns two pet gopher snakes, Thierry and Slevin, who reportedly like to cuddle.
■ Needless IMDB trivia: Played schoolboy "Leclerc" in Les Choristes; he'd later star in Michel Leclerc's 2012 comedy, Télé Gaucho.
■ Is a big fan of the James Bond series, particularly of those with Roger Moore. At one time, there were rumors that he had auditioned for the role of Q in Skyfall, which he's acknowledged with a wink, despite being completely untrue.
■ Needless IMDB trivia: Stars in the R.E.M. music video for their 2011 song, "ÜBerlin", the first line of which is "hey now, take your pills". In 2006, he had a brief but curious role in Children of Men as Alex, a disaffected youth who ignores his father's shouts to take his pills until he wordlessly obeys.