Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY
Published 10:59 a.m. ET Jan. 28, 2020 | Updated 12:40 p.m. ET Feb. 3, 2020
Daniel Radcliffe talks about working with ducks and owls and his TBS sitcom “Miracle Workers.”
NEW YORK – He’s had many feathered co-stars, but Daniel Radcliffe‘s projects aren’t strictly for the birds.
For eight movies of the beloved “Harry Potter” franchise, the British actor worked with seven different owls that played the boy wizard’s trusty pet, Hedwig. And now, in TBS comedy “Miracle Workers: Dark Ages” (Tuesdays,10:30 EST/PST), Radcliffe shares the screen with a flock of ducks belonging to his character, the witless Prince Chauncley.
“Ducks are much more hard to work with than owls,” Radcliffe says with a grin. “I don’t know what I thought you could train a duck to do; it turns out, not much. Any scene you watch where I appear to be wrangling ducks is very real. I really am like, ‘Hey! Come back over here! We’ve got one more take before the end of the day and you’re ruining it!'”
“Dark Ages” is the second installment of the “Miracle Workers” anthology series, created by Simon Rich (FXX’s “Man Seeking Woman”) and both starring Radcliffe, Steve Buscemi and Geraldine Viswanathan. But while Season 1 was based on Rich’s 2013 book “What in God’s Name” and followed low-level angels in a corporate version of heaven, Season 2 is set in Medieval times, as the bumbling Chauncley grapples with inheriting the throne from his bloodthirsty father (Peter Serafinowicz).
Radcliffe, 30, says “Dark Ages” is “Game of Thrones” meets “The Simpsons,” and strikes a unique tone of being “sweet and charming, but also very profane and stupid and funny.” He chats with USA TODAY about the show and life after “Harry Potter.”
Question: What are some similarities between your characters Craig (in Season 1) and Chauncley (in Season 2)?
Daniel Radcliffe: They’re both socially inept but come from completely different places. Craig’s social ineptitude is caused by him being overly analytical and self-aware, whereas Chauncley has no self-awareness. He starts as someone who’s psychotically stupid, and his journey is one of starting to become a good person by the end. It’s a very different role for me – I’ve never done anything this broad before. It’s very hard to find a grounded and subtle way of playing someone who dances with ducks.
Q: Given the medieval setting, did you have to learn how to swordfight or ride horses?
Radcliffe: I got out of that, thankfully. When we were first doing the show, I was like, “I’m definitely going to have to ride.” I can get on a horse and go from point A to point B, but I don’t love it. I also didn’t have to do any sort of fighting because my character’s a coward. Really, the only thing I had to do was called “duck training,” where I’d stand there for 10 minutes, and the (animal handlers) would be like, “Pick up the duck. Now put it down again. Cool, need anything else from us?”
Q: Aside from the cast, are there any connective threads between the stories in seasons 1 and 2?
Radcliffe: We discovered some as we were going along, but I don’t even know if they’re intentional. It’s really little things, like a scene where me and Geraldine’s character end up spreading a map out on a table and poring over it and working out a plan, which is an echo of something from the first season, (which was) thematically about finding the bravery to be yourself. And the second has a more parental theme: How do we love our parents, and how do we move away from (them)? But done in the craziest, most heightened context.
Q: You’ve appeared in Broadway shows, independent films and now TV series in the decade since “Harry Potter.” What was the most difficult part of making that transition?
Radcliffe: There’s a lovely thing, which is that I’m open to some weirder stuff. Well, maybe other people say it’s weird, but I just think it’s fun. And weird begets weird, so then you become known for responding to those scripts and get sent (them). What I had to learn is that I’m in a position very few actors are in, which is you have autonomy over your career. And because “Potter” has been very good to me financially, you can pick and choose some (projects) purely because it makes you happy.
There was a stage where I thought I should be doing a certain type of film, and it was a very valuable lesson to learn that, “Oh, I shouldn’t necessarily do something because it’s the right thing to do on paper.” I was very worried at the end of “Potter” because I didn’t know what the future was going to be or what my life was like without that thing. But if you told me then that in 10 years, I’d have made films like “Horns” and “Kill Your Darlings” and “Guns Akimbo” and “Swiss Army Man,” I’d have bitten your hand off. “Potter” was this amazing start, and then I had to step back and say, “OK, what do you want your career to be?”
Q: I spoke to your “Harry Potter” co-star Rupert Grint, who said he recently re-watched “Sorcerer’s Stone” (released in 2001, when Radcliffe was just 11 years old). Have you seen any of the movies lately?
Radcliffe: Yeah, I was at the gym on Thanksgiving and it was just on a loop on some channel. I came into the gym and there was a little bit of recognition at the door, but it settled down and I was like, “OK, cool, cool.” And then I get on the treadmill and look up, and it’s (expletive) me in the third film (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”)! It’s funny. I don’t know if I can watch them, just because I don’t know if I’m ready for that opioid-level hit of nostalgia. It would be too much of a mixture of sadness and happiness and embarrassment. But I will watch them again at some point. It’s definitely not something I seek out, though.
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