Daniel Radcliffe Has an Emmy Nod, But His Accordion Skills Are Fading

It was a typical morning for Daniel Radcliffe when he got a not-so-typical call: He’d been nominated for his first Emmy Award, for best lead actor in a limited or anthology series or movie, for his performance as the parodist Weird Al Yankovic in last year’s Roku biopic “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.”

”It was a genuine surprise,” Radcliffe, 33, said in a call from his New York apartment, where he had just finished bouncing his newborn son, trying to lull him to sleep.

The “Harry Potter” star has increasingly pivoted to more experimental roles, chief among them his starring turn in the kinda-sorta-not-actually-true biopic about the life of the music and comedy legend, which debuted on the streaming service in November.

“I generally pick things because I know I’ll have a good time making them,” Radcliffe said. “Making this was one of the most special experiences of my career, and when the love you have for something is mirrored in the reaction to it, there are few feelings that are as good as that.”

Radcliffe will soon begin performances on Broadway in a much-anticipated revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1981 musical “Merrily We Roll Along.” In an interview, he discussed his affection for Weird Al, his favorite cameo from the film’s star-studded pool-party scene and why writers are so essential to making good film and TV. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

You were initially hesitant to take this role because you, objectively, look nothing like Weird Al. But was that ultimately part of the appeal?

My first reaction was definitely that there were people who were physically a lot closer to his appearance. But when I read the script, by Page 2, I got a sense of the tone of the film and what they were trying to do. I was like, “I can play this version of Weird Al.” I kind of felt foolish for ever having assumed it would be a serious, straight-down-the-line biopic. A parody of biopics is the only thing a Weird Al biopic could ever be.

What was the most challenging part?

The whole film was shot in 18 days, and there were these big music and dance sequences, these big fight sequences. There was a lot to do and to learn, and it was mostly a question of not going into any day unprepared. There wasn’t room for any of us in either the cast or the crew to do that. The way Eric [Appel, the director] managed to make this film in such a short time was insane. I’m sure he was having to make compromises or cut or change things, but it never seemed like it.

What was your favorite celebrity cameo from the pool-party scene?

The teenage boy in me was freaking out that I was getting to do a scene with Jack Black. But I think the best celebrity impersonation in there is Jorma [Taccone] playing Pee-wee Herman. He can make me laugh like few other people can.

What is the best song you can play on the accordion?

It will remain the opening of “My Bologna.” Actually, I can probably play a little bit more of “I Love Rocky Road” — I can get all the way up to the solo. Well, I should say I could get that far; I haven’t been practicing as much in recent months, because I have a small child in the house now who we are trying to get to sleep rather than wake up to the sound of an accordion.

What is your favorite Weird Al song?

Probably “Bob,” the Bob Dylan parody, which is entirely made up of palindromes. It scratches at the super wordy nerd part of my brain.

Are there any other nominees you’ll be rooting for from this season?

Quinta Brunson from “Abbott Elementary,” who I got to work with a bunch of times. She’s the best. I will be cheering her on whatever she does. And — if there is an Emmys ceremony to go to — it’s nice that I will at least know her.

Do you have any thoughts on the writers’ strike, or the possible actors’ strike?

Nobody wants a strike to happen, but it is seeming more and more like it needs to. It’s important that we show solidarity with the writers, because no actors are as good at improvising as we think we are. I would be literally nowhere in my career were it not for writers. And with all the A.I. stuff, it seems like it potentially could be a really important moment. We might be one of the first industries to have a say on how this stuff works and affects us going forward.

You’re in “Merrily” on Broadway for the foreseeable future, but what about after that? Do you want to do more TV? Film? Direct?

Yes to all of that. Obviously “Merrily” will keep me busy for a while, but I’ll go wherever good scripts are. When I was growing up, there was much more of a perceived gap between film and TV, and that just doesn’t exist anymore, which is fantastic. You can go wherever good work is being made.

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