As Daniel Radcliffe continues to break new ground as an actor, he hasn’t forgotten who got him his start: Harry Potter.
The 21-year old actor says that if it weren’t for the bespectacled hero of the book franchise, he may never have gotten the chance to make his Broadway debut a few years ago in the play “Equus,” or portray J. Pierrepont Finch in the Broadway revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
“All the opportunities that it’s opened for me are something that would not have happened had it not been for Harry Potter,” Radcliffe says.
In 2000, the relatively unknown Radcliffe was cast as the hero in the film adaptations of the J.K. Rowling book series. The last movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was produced in two parts, with the finale to premiere in July.
While playing an iconic boy wizard is a challenge, singing and dancing for eight shows a week is a daunting undertaking. Radcliffe prepared by taking 18 months of dancing lessons.
He also studied singing, and the young star acknowledges having trouble with the simplest of tunes before he took classes.
“When I was doing ‘Equus,’ I couldn’t sing the Milky Bar tune correctly without making up a few of the notes, which is a long way from that to doing a Broadway musical,” Radcliff joked, referring to the candy bar.
It took some serious persuasion by producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron before he signed on for his first musical. Once committed, he immersed himself in the role. And while he didn’t attempt to contact the original Finch, played by Robert Morse, he did get advice from the last one to play the role on Broadway.
“I spoke to Matthew Broderick,” Radcliffe said. “He was at the premiere of the last Potter film and told me to enjoy it because it’s really fun role.”
Radcliffe is transitioning nicely, saying he mourned the end of Potter last year and accepted that all good things must come to an end.
He says the Potter creative team could either have stopped when the books ended or asked someone else to keep writing Potter scripts, which he feared would lead to films gradually becoming worse and worse. “So those were the options, and we picked the right one,” he says.
While “Harry Potter” has global appeal, Radcliffe never seems bothered by the Potter spotters when he walks around the city.
“I always think in New York people don’t like to be too impressed,” Radcliffe says. “Even if somebody does spot me, there’s a kind of element of ‘OK, fine. Yeah. I’m not really that impressed that you walked by,’ which is kind of great for me.”
Even as he moves forward with his career, Harry Potter still looms: Radcliffe will have to take some time off from the musical in July to promote the last Potter film. In a deal worked out between producers and Warner Bros., the theater will be dark for three days.
His next film, “The Woman in Black,” is set for release at the end of the year. “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” is playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and opens Sunday.