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Daniel Radcliffe on Playing an Angel in Miracle Workers, Why He Loves Podcasts and How He Spends His Downtime

February 8, 2019   |   Written by Walter Scott

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, 29, shows off his funny bone in TBS’ heavenly comedy Miracle Workers (February 12). He plays Craig, a worker-bee angel who has to come up with a plan to save humanity when God (Steve Buscemi) decides he’s not too happy with what’s going on down there.

What is heaven like in Miracle Workers?

It’s the closest thing I can imagine to a secular idea of heaven. The focus isn’t on religion, because that’s not really what this show is about. But God has definitely grown disillusioned with his own creation.

Craig seems like a very cautious angel.

He takes an immense amount of pride in his work. But at the same time, to avoid failure, he has scaled back his ambitions to only make tiny differences in the world.

Do you tend to be cautious or do you jump into things?

I generally jump into things and figure it out. So I’m definitely not as cautious as Craig. I’ve got a lot of the nervous energy that Craig has, but that’s more just how I am. It doesn’t necessarily reflect a huge nervousness all the time.

How do you spend your downtime?

As soon as I’ve got some genuine downtime, I see friends and catch up, I watch a lot of sports, read and go to the gym.

In Miracle Workers, your character, the angel Craig, gets thrown for a loop when Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) joins his team, and she is all about granting big wishes or prayers.

When Eliza comes in, completely psyched to be there, she’s excited to be in a department where she can do great big, grand, sweeping gestures that help all of mankind, or thousands of people over time at least. That initially is terrifying to my character.

[Series creator] Simon Rich’s analogy for the series is in part it’s like a sports movie, where a lot of the drama comes from who is and who is not joining the team and the teams learning from each other.

You’re also a producer on this. Do you want to do more of that?

While I was on set on this, I was definitely very much just an actor, but in terms of preproduction, I was definitely involved in a little bit of the development of it over time, in casting and that sort of thing. It was nice to be on that side of things and get a sense of what that process is, but I definitely don’t think it’s going to be my main focus, certainly for some time, if ever. I do want to at some point direct, and I’d love to write more than I would be interested in producing.

You’re in a unique position, as a result of your early success, you can pick and choose your roles. So what do you look for when a project comes along? Or do you ever have to go after things that you want because even with all you’ve done since Harry Potter, it still follows you?

I don’t know that it follows me. You’d have to ask the people that decide whether I am cast in things or not. I don’t have the information on that, but in terms of things that I want to do, I would say I’m in a very rare position that I can just do stuff that I respond to, so that is it, really; that’s all the criteria. I like to try and keep it as varied as I can because where I have the most fun doing my job is jumping from project to project that are as different as they can be.

I respond to really good writing. I love Simon’s work as an author and I think the script to this show was amazing, so as a first priority, I tend to go after writing that I love.

I like to do things like Miracle Workers or Swiss Army Man that have a sense of being different and are original. If I don’t feel like I’ve seen something quite like it before, that’s always an added bonus.

You’ve just wrapped a play on Broadway, you have this series, and possibly another movie. They’re all different styles of acting. Do you have a preference?

Not particularly. I grew up on film sets, so film sets are always going to be a place that I just love being, and I really do. I’m very, very comfortable in that environment, and so I think that will always be the thing that I return to the most and, hopefully, fill most of my time with, whether it’s film or TV. It doesn’t matter which, just being on a set of some kind, but I’m very, very fortunate to have been able to work in theater as much as I have.

I think it’s made me a better actor, to be honest. I think acting in an environment where you don’t have an editor, a director or a DP to do something that saves you was incredibly important in terms of building confidence in myself as an actor. Doing stage work, I feel whenever I finish something, I always feel like I’m better equipped to go into the next film I do because I’ve just done something onstage.

Do you have another movie on the horizon?

I’ve done a voice for Playmobil: The Movie, which may be coming out next year, but I also did a film in New Zealand and Germany last year, called Guns Akimbo, which is an absolutely crazy action-comedy movie from the mind of this wonderful young TV director called Jason Lei Howden. That was a huge amount of fun over the summer, and then, hopefully, I’m going off to shoot something very shortly in the new year, but it’s not quite there yet in terms of being over the finish line, so I don’t want to say too much about that yet just in case.

With all you’ve achieved, you’re an inspiration to many, but where do you find inspiration?

Getting to be a part of telling stories is a really special thing to be able to do. To get very pretentious for a second, one of the things that makes us human is our ability to tell stories and relate things in our own lives to them, so I actually listen to a lot of podcasts and watch a lot of documentaries. I was incredibly inspired the other day by watching Vice. I thought it was just an amazing piece of filmmaking and acting, but generally speaking, most of the things I get inspired by are documentaries, podcast-type things, history and learning about amazing people and things that have happened and going, “Wow, there’s such a wealth of incredible stories out there to tell.” So getting a chance to be one of the people that do that is a wonderful thing.

It looks like you’re very much into music. I was wondering, are you a big concertgoer?

I don’t. I do listen to a lot of music, but I haven’t been to a concert in a few years, to be honest. I did Reading Festival [a U.K. rock music festival] a few years when I was young, and I’m very, very glad I did that. I wanted to do it enough to go and see all those bands to be in, like, a very crowded environment, but no, I haven’t been to any concerts in few years. But I do listen to a lot of music.

One of your charities of choice is Demelza Hospice Care for Children, but you’ve generally been reluctant to talk about your good works.

Demelza House has actually been one of the things that I have supported the longest. I think it was one of the first things I started donating to after Potter started because we had a local connection. It’s a children’s hospital, and they get absolutely no government funding whatsoever and rely entirely on donations from people for support. It’s a wonderful organization.

I still haven’t quite got over the fact that my voice is useful in those kind of things, so it’s very nice to be able to draw attention to those things. I like to support as many things as I can, but I never like to talk about it because I don’t ever want it to come across as, “Oh, look how virtuous I’m being.” No matter how something is intended, some people take it the wrong way.

I’ve had a few people tell me at the stage door over the years, especially with the Demelza project, that I’ve had a direct impact on their life. Honestly, when someone says that, it’s an indescribable feeling to actually know that you could’ve helped somebody in situations by just associating yourself with a major organization. It is a strange but very, very gratifying feeling.

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