When “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe made his stage debut in 2007, he shocked Hollywood. 17-year-old Radcliffe was cast as the lead in “Equus,” a Peter Shaffer play in which he would simulate sex with a horse.
16 years later, a similar announcement would barely turn heads.
Now 33, Radcliffe has spent more time working as a professional actor outside of the franchise that skyrocketed him to fame than in it — and creating a singular body of work that exemplifies his artistic sensibilities and talent. Just four years after “Equus” and in the same summer as the final “Potter” premiere, he took a crash course in singing and dancing to lead the Broadway revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (cast recording). The was followed by tackling horror in “The Woman in Black,” playing Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings,” and the dark fantasy “Horns.” The longest gap in his resume is the year between “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “The Lost City,” when most productions stalled or rescheduled due to COVID-19 restrictions, and he had his first child with partner Erin Darke earlier this year (the entire family was seen on the SAG-AFTRA picket lines).
In the early days, Radcliffe’s trajectory may have appeared erratic; a string of disparate roles that forced him into uncharted territory while also decisively distancing himself from the boy wizard (he has and continues to stand firmly for trans rights amidst comments to the contrary from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling). In his own words, Radcliffe wanted to keep things interesting, and ended up picking projects that pushed him and enhanced his craft. He played a romantic lead in “What If,” a sidekick in “Victor Frankenstein,” a villainous billionaire in “The Lost City.” His skills from “How to Succeed” came in handy for his upcoming Broadway run in “Merrily We Roll Along.” His “Trainwreck” cameo is evidence that he’s always game for a good bit. On “Miracle Workers,” he got to work with a consistent cast and crew for years (the longest stint since “Potter”) while jumping through genres and the rigorous schedule of television. After sharing the screening with legendary British actors in “Potter,” he’s now also worked with the Daniels, Adam Driver, Steve Buscemi, and Sandra Bullock.
It was less surprising and more inevitable, then, when Radcliffe was cast as Al Yankovic in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” a biopic parody co-written by Yankovic and Eric Appel and directed by Appel (what better follow up to consistently weird roles than starring in a movie literally called “Weird?”). In some ways it was the culmination of various prior roles, from the gaggle of guest stars to the musical performances (ultimately replaced by Yankovic’s own vocals), the stunt work he honed on a decade of “Potter,” and a handful of clever turns playing himself (“Extras,” “The Simpsons,” “BoJack Horseman”). But this time, Radcliffe is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie at the 75th Annual Emmy Awards — and he has a good shot at winning.
Despite his diverse filmography, Radcliffe has never been nominated for a major award (ie: the EGOT letters) (outside a Grammy for the cast album of “How to Succeed”). The “Harry Potter” franchise was nominated for a total of three Oscars, arguably an early victim of the Academy’s bias against genre films (a thin argument at the time, when “The Lord of the Rings” racked up its 17 statues). His name hasn’t risen to the top of EGOT conversations, yet he’s an artist who has proved capable of winning any if not all awards in the acronym. That might change come January 2024 (or later, if the awards are further postponed due to ongoing Hollywood strikes), and “Weird” has already earned him a Critics’ Choice Television Award.
Awards aside, Radcliffe’s story is already one for the books. It’s a tall task for any child actor to grow up in front of cameras, carry a massive franchise, and remain scandal-free for his entire adolescence and then well into adulthood. On top of that, he managed to do what so few can achieve and genuinely establish himself outside of his breakout character, that too without taking an extended hiatus from acting. He’s maintained a private personal life, professional respect, as well as the admiration of his original fan base while he stays connected to “Potter” without hogging the spotlight, depending on the brand, or reprising his role.
In short, Radcliffe is a once-in-a-generation talent. A potential Emmy win is incidental to his creative prosperity, which has been undeniable even since the “Potter” days. Even if he never works again (please no), it’s been a mesmerizing ride to witness his growth — and hopefully only the beginning.
“Weird” is now streaming on The Roku Channel.