LOS ANGELES -- The world of "Harry Potter" has always centered on the boy wizard and his pals as they navigate danger, outsmart villains and hurtle toward their inevitable destiny. But the eight-film series has also featured a who's-who of outstanding British actors playing the adults in this magical world.
Since it all ends this week with the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," here's a look at five favorite grown-ups from the franchise:
_ Alan Rickman as Severus Snape: Probably the most fascinating figure in the Potter world because of his shifting alliances and an emotional depth that's unexpected given his icy demeanor. Rickman is captivating in the role, with his droll, deadpan delivery that oozes condescending menace. A half-blood wizard, Snape has been a minion of the evil Lord Voldemort as well as an ally of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. He's served as the intimidating Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and eventually headmaster himself but he's also been a protector of Harry. Snape bullies his students but he also reveals his bravery, and in this final film, a flashback that explains his history with the young wizard provides one of its most poignant scenes.
_ Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort: Fiennes is just chilling as the dark lord, the lifelong nemesis Harry is destined to fight, and that's only partly because of his freakish, noseless appearance. His soft, hissing delivery is more disarming in a way than if he'd issued his threats and orders with a bellowing boom. The artist formerly known as Tom Riddle was once the most brilliant student Hogwarts had ever seen. But he used those strengths to transform himself into the most powerful dark wizard ever, and boy, does he have it in for Harry Potter. He seriously needs to find a hobby.
_ Michael Gambon as Dumbledore: Gambon took over the role after the death of Richard Harris, who played the headmaster at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two films in the franchise, "Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets." And he took a different approach to the part: While he remained a bastion of all that is good and true in the world, a steady and authoritative voice of reason, Gambon played him with a bit more fire and range than Harris. Perhaps that's also because more of the character is revealed to us over time. With his long, silver hair and beard, Dumbledore is revered, but he's also got some secrets.
_ Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange: A great opportunity for this versatile actress to show off her wild side. With her dark, untamed locks and severe, black wardrobe, Bellatrix is fiercely loyal to Voldemort as a member of his army of Death Eaters. Bonham Carter plays the role with wicked glee, reveling in the over-the-top nature of being an evil flunky, even though the character herself comes from an elite wizarding family. In one hilarious sequence in "Deathly Hallows: Part 2," Bonham Carter plays Emma Watson playing Harry's pal Hermione pretending to be ... Bellatrix Lestrange, allowing her to show off another side of her physical talents.
_ Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge: Do you notice a theme here? With the exception of Dumbledore, most of my choices are evil – or at least partly evil – characters. Everyone hates Dolores Umbridge. But Staunton is so deliciously cruel in the role, she's strangely irresistible and impossible to forget, even though she only appears in two of the eight movies: "Order of the Phoenix" and "Deathly Hallows: Part 1." The Ministry of Magic assigns Dolores to the Hogwarts staff to keep an eye on Dumbledore and impart her bland, useless, "Ministry-approved" curriculum. Passive-aggressive oppression is her game; she's toadlike but perfectly coifed in her prim, pink dresses, and she hands out torturous assignments with a smile. It's pure magic.