Even before becoming Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe was inhabiting a British classic. He recalled that recently, while discussing a little cable show -- "A Young Doctor's Notebook" -- that returns Tuesday (Aug. 19) and reruns often. The show is small, clever and quirky; the star is small, clever and thoughtful. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Daniel Radcliffe’s first meeting with American TV critics
had its moments of semi-peril.
Not the press conference itself; even back then – as a
10-year-old who shared the title role in PBS’ 1999 “David Copperfield” – he
took that in stride. “I’ve always sort of enjoyed talking to people,” he said.
The trickier part, he said, was getting there. “I remember
the lift (elevator) button always electrocuted you when you went down. So me
and my mom would, like, flip a coin for who had to press the button.”
He survived and went on to stardom in Harry Potter movies
and beyond. Now, 15 years later, he was talking to some of those same critics
about “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” … the sort of offbeat series that only starpower
can generate. Producers, he said, told
him: “If you want to get a TV show green-lit, tell them you have Jon Hamm and
Daniel Radcliffe for four weeks over the summer.”
Hamm (“Mad Men”) was attracted to the work of Mikhail
Bulakov, a former World War I doctor who kicked a morphine addiction and became
an acclaimed Russian writer. His “Notebook” had the 1935 version of the doctor
(played by Hamm) talking directly to his 1917 self.
“It was incredibly flattering that he … suggested me to play
the young him,” Radcliffe said.
Also eccentric: Hamm stands 6-foot-2, Radcliffe is 5-5. “The
show is so crazy anyway,” Radcliffe said. “If viewers get hung up on that, then
there’s going to be plenty of other logical problems.”
Height (or lack of it) helped him get those early roles. Radcliffe
– the son of a London literary agent and casting agent – was turning 10 when he
played young Copperfield, whose life quaked as he turned 8.
He had never acted, but director Simon Curtis later recalled
(in Rebecca Eaton’s “Making Masterpiece,” Viking, 2013) that the casting made
sense: “A director friend told me, ‘If you’re casting a kid, cast a kid you
like’ …. He was a lovely boy to have around (and) he’s become an impressive
He was also a polite kid who wrote thank-you notes and asked
Maggie Smith: “Would you like me to call you ‘Dame’?” She burst out laughing …
and a year later recommended him to play Potter.
First, Eaton wrote, he became the youngest British actor ever
brought by PBS to the U.S. for a press conference. She remembered him “sitting
up straight in his chair, feet hardly touching the ground, as he thoughtfully
and respectfully tried to answer questions about Charles Dickens.”
For “Notebook,” it was more distant. Wrapping up his Broadway
run of “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” Radcliffe was interviewed by TV critics via closed-circuit.
He reflected on the notion of doing a dark Russian comedy for British (and now
“There’s a certain joy taken in the bleakness of Russia and
of England,” he said, “reveling in the misery of it all …. While I don’t think
that’s a particularly American sensibility, I do think that America loves dark
comedy. I’m doing an incredibly dark comedy on Broadway at the moment, and
people are loving it.”
In short, we’re ready for this dark plunge: “You’ve got the
same twisted sense of humor as I have.”
“A Young Doctor’s Notebook,” 10 p.m. ET for four
Tuesdays on Ovation, an arts-oriented network on cable, satellite and
Season-opener (Aug. 19) reruns at 5 p.m.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Saturday and late-night Monday (technically, 1:30 a.m.
This is the second mini-season. The first reruns
late-night Thursday (technically, 2-4 a.m. Friday).