How Harry Potter Bad Boy Tom Felton Stays Blond

07/20/2009 at 07:30 AM EDT

How Harry Potter Bad Boy Tom Felton Stays Blond
Tom Felton
Stephen Lovekin/Getty
Though he often finds himself living in the shadow of Daniel Radcliffe's heroic title character, British actor Tom Felton graduates to leading man status in the latest installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as his character Draco Malfoy evolves from simple troublemaker into serious villain.

As a result, the blond brusier, 21, tells PEOPLE, "I get a lot of boos from kids around the world. When kids visit on set they're all happy to meet Dan and Rupert [Grint]. When I come out they have a blank face and don't want to shake my hand … but I take that as a compliment."

Even tougher than the snub is staying platinum blond. Since he was 13, the brunette roots of Felton's hair are dyed every 10 days to maintain Malfoy's signature shade, a task the actor admits is "not a pleasant experience. Now I understand what girls go through. I completely sympathize."

Still, Felton's "become oddly attached" to the result, he admits. "It's fun to be blond, and it's almost difficult to remember how I used to look with my proper hair color."

'Amazing' Girlfriend

Though he's in the hair and makeup trailer far longer than are Radcliffe, Grint and Emma Watson, one tradeoff is that Felton met his girlfriend Jade Gordon, 22, assistant to the stunt coordinator on the Potter films, while working on the last one. "My lady is quite amazing," he gushes. "We've been dating for 16 months now."

Living outside of London in a small town where the roads are wide enough for only one car and filled with tractors, cows, horses – Felton finds himself far from the spotlights of Hollywood. "I'm a real big country boy," he says. "I live right in the middle of nowhere and I thoroughly enjoy it. It's nice for me at the end of the day to come home and enjoy the peacefulness of the country side."

Cricket and Vegas

Among his favorites pastimes – besides singing, songwriting and playing acoustic guitar (his songs are featured on iTunes and at feltbeats.com, "and most of them are about my girlfriend," he says) – is playing cricket in his back garden with his older brother. And though he disdains those who toss around their fame, Felton did enjoy a recent perk when he cruised past the lines at the airport. "That was pretty cool," he admits.

As for being part of one of the most successful film franchises in history – this sixth installment made $396.7 million this weekend, shattering Spider-Man's records – Felton is responsible with his finances but did indulge in a trip to Sin City.

"I took my friend to Vegas on my 21st birthday and we had a little splurge there," he says. "But we won a little bit and it was enough to cover my long-distance phone calls back to my girlfriend."

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