Entertainment

Friday 20 July 2018

Rupert Grint: 'It's hard to work out where Ron ends and I begin'

While Rupert Grint has no problem ­being forever remembered as ­Harry ­Potter's ­sidekick, he tells our reporter he is relishing casting off the shackles of ­Ron Weasley to play a compulsive liar

Sick Note starts this November on Sky One and NOW TV
Sick Note starts this November on Sky One and NOW TV
Sick Note

Tony Clayton Lea

Rupert Grint knows the score by now. He may have made a tidy sum of money (an estimated €27m) for his appearances in the eight Harry Potter films, and he may be on the path to establishing himself, post-Potter, as a credible actor, but he knows that his character of Ron Weasley is always going to be referenced in virtually everything he does.

Now 29 years of age, and over six years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, Grint is so fully aware that Ron Weasley will follow him through the decades that he even pre-empts questions.

I have barely uttered the first few words of my opening question (when the final Harry Potter film finished, did he feel he needed to do very different work in order to establish himself as an actor?) when he swoops in like a cormorant on a fish.

"There was that kind of pressure, yes, but I don't think I ever made a really conscious decision to seek out stuff that was particularly shocking. It was never as contrived as that, it just happened. I definitely wanted to do theatre, because it's quite a different technique.

"All I wanted to do was work that was character-driven and had good writing. The Harry Potter movies and books are so well loved by successive generations that they're always going to be with me. The challenge is breaking that gently now and again, and doing different things."

Grint speaks wisely. Still the best of mates with his former franchise cohorts Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, he has surely witnessed the trajectory and quality of their respective film careers, and jotted down notes. While his personal post-HP path hasn't exactly been strewn with as much high-profile work - or as much of it - there is more of a through line to it. For starters, between film, theatre and television work, it is resolutely low-budget, reasonably low-key, and as typecast-proof as you can imagine.

"It's an inevitable thing," says Grint of the dangers of stereotyping, "but you go with your gut instinct for different roles."

Grint's latest "different role" is in the forthcoming Sky One comedy series Sick Note. Considering the amount of roles that come his way - and irrespective of how financially secure he is - can we presume that he chooses roles very carefully?

"I guess so," Grint replies vaguely. "It isn't something I think too much about, but character-driven roles are good, as well as there being creative people around them."

Sick Note, he says, "was all about the script, because - and I know you may have heard this many times - I hadn't read anything like it before".

In fairness, the script (co-written by James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders) has a sliver of an edge to it. Co-starring Nick Frost and Don Johnson (and in the already commissioned second series, Lindsay Lohan), Grint plays habitual liar Daniel Glass, a man adrift in a job he loathes and a relationship he's uninterested in. His life radically changes when he is diagnosed with oesophageal cancer - people start to view him in a new light, and treat him with attention and respect.

While initially distraught at news of his imminent demise, Glass discovers in himself a new burst of energy - he doesn't have long left, so he starts to enjoy the time he has to the max. The narrative hinge, however, is that Glass has been seriously misdiagnosed by an incompetent doctor. Being a compulsive liar, however, he continues to deceive those around him.

"It's quite a brave subject for a comedy," agrees Grint. "It's dark, and has a fresh feeling about it. I loved the idea of how a lie can spin completely out of control, become an impossible thing to keep up, and how so many different characters become entangled in it."

He is thrilled about the commissioning of Sick Note's second series. The developmental style of television that continues to attract so many major movie stars and directors suits him.

"Harry Potter was a unique thing to have happen to you. Having the opportunity to take on a character, to be allowed to develop it over a long period of time, doesn't occur very often, especially with the same person playing the same character. Television shows can do that very well - you only have to look at the recent Emmy Awards to know that so much good stuff is being made specifically for TV, be it drama or comedy."

When he first started acting (aged 11), Grint wasn't a stage school brat eager to be famous, yet he secured a role that many hundreds of kids would surely have sold their grannies for. Does easing into characters come second nature to him now?

"Oh, yes, it does, of course. Things like Sick Note and the other work I've done that hasn't been Harry Potter is like being in the real world. Potter was a very unusual process, an established family where every year it became very routine. Playing the same character, you knew what you were doing all of the time, and you got to know that character inside out.

"It's such a challenge when you go on to do something else. Also, you have to realise that Harry Potter was such a huge part of my growing up, so much so that Ron Weasley has become, kind of, imprinted on me. It's actually very hard for me to find out where Ron ends and where I begin. Because of that, it's difficult to completely get into the head of a new character."

Does that inhibit him in some way when it comes to choosing roles?

"I don't feel it's a real obstacle, but it's something I know I have to concentrate on, perhaps to fight it a little. It helps when there's great writing, and there really is on Sick Note."

It has been something of a challenge for Grint to safely negotiate the path from teenager to adult, but he seems as grounded as a person can be under the circumstances. He is refreshingly honest about the experience.

"To have been involved in Harry Potter's adult environment at such a young age - that was a strange period of my life," he discloses. "I don't have the same independence as a normal 29-year-old would have, and that's always made me feel slightly younger than I am. In that sense, I can relate to Daniel Glass's character - he struggles with growing up and facing responsibility."

Having said that, Grint amiably admits to being a fully functioning adult. "Yes! I've come a long way."

Yet, as he has admitted, Ron Weasley is semi-imprinted on to his persona. Even now, almost seven years since the final HP movie, he cannot walk down a street in most cities of the world without being nabbed for a selfie.

"It's a daily thing," he says with a mixture of weariness and acceptance. "I had thought it would decline because the years have gone by, but new generations of kids read the books and see the movies, so it's constant.

"Everyone is really nice, of course, but it's something I've always been accustomed to from a young age. It isn't too obtrusive, but sometimes you just want to disappear."

You'd need to be a magician for that to happen, Rupert. Oh, hold on…

Sick Note starts this November on Sky 1 and NOW TV

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