Daniel Radcliffe on first Tony nomination, challenging roles after "Harry Potter"

Daniel Radcliffe may always be known best for his star-making role as “Harry Potter,” but now he’s also a Tony-nominated actor. Radcliffe stars alongside Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez in the revival of “Merrily We Roll Along.” 

The Stephen Sondheim musical tells the story of friendship between a songwriting duo and a theater critic friend and its unraveling in reverse. While the musical was Sondheim’s favorite, it flopped in its initial run, lasting only 16 performances.

The revival of “Merrily We Roll Along” is now up for seven Tony awards, including acting nominations for all three stars. 

On being a Tony-nominated actor

Radcliffe said he is thrilled about the nominations. Coming out of the Harry Potter series, he had no idea what would happen next – and certainly didn’t expect to become a Tony-nominated actor. 

“I don’t think I would’ve dared to believe you,” Radcliffe said.

“Merrily We Roll Along” opened on Broadway in October 2023 after a successful off-Broadway run. Radcliffe said his friendship with Groff and Mendez has only grown throughout the run and so have their lives.

But Radcliffe isn’t letting the Tony Awards distract him. While “ambivalent” about the possibility of his own win, it’s a different story when it comes to Groff. 

I will burn the building to the ground if Jonathan Groff doesn’t win. Everyone else in the category is amazing. That is true, but I’m very biased here,” he said with a laugh.

Juggling his Broadway career and his personal life has had its challenges, especially as a new dad.

Radcliffe and his longtime girlfriend Erin Darke whom he met on the set of “Kill Your Darlings” welcomed their first son in 2023. As a new father, Radcliffe’s show schedule has allowed him to spend time during the day with his son, but matinees complicate things. 

“Two-show days are particularly hard and sad because I leave in the morning and then he’s very obviously asleep by the time I get back,” Radcliffe said. “I do feel like I see him the next morning, and I’m like, ‘Oh, you’re a different human being. You have grown up so much in these last 24 hours.'”

Taking on challenging roles

Since “Harry Potter,” Radcliffe has taken a slew of edgy roles on stage and in film, including playing a flatulent corpse in “Swiss Army Man,” an evil billionaire in “Lost City,” and Weird Al in the 2022 biopic. Radcliffe said he has the unique and enviable privilege of being selective with his roles, and he doesn’t mind taking big swings.

“I have the most fun and I’m at my best when I’m a little bit scared that it’s all going to go horribly wrong any minute,” he said. 

That proves to be especially true in theater. While it hasn’t often gone wrong for Radcliffe during the run of “Merrily We Roll Along,” it did recently during his showstopping song, “Franklin Shepard Inc.” when he said he jumped a full two minutes of the song.

In that moment, Radcliffe felt like he “might disappear down a hole but Groff and Mendez kept him going. 

Radcliffe said a moment like that will ultimately help him stay sharp. 

With his fifth Broadway show under his belt, Radcliffe is something of a veteran on the scene. Radcliffe made his Broadway debut in 2008 in “Equus,” a play that follows a child psychiatrist treating a young man with an obsession with horses. This role came after “Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince,” the franchise’s sixth movie. He said that he felt welcomed in New York after his “Harry Potter” days.

“Equus” was considered a bold choice as it deals with religious and sacrificial themes and required Radcliffe to appear on stage nude. But Radcliffe said he knew that if he pursued stage acting he couldn’t choose an easy role. He needed to take on something challenging enough to prove that he was truly pushing himself.

“At a time when the rest of the world was being like, ‘You are always going to be Harry Potter,’ it was Broadway that kind of went, Let’s see what else you can do,” Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe would challenge himself again in 2011 when he took his first role in a musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which he found “intimidating” at first. 

When he met with director Rob Ashford, Radcliffe was confident he could act and sing the part, but he was adamant dancing was out of the question. With 18 months of practice before the show opened, Radcliffe exceeded his expectations and said performing “Brotherhood of Man” for the play was “one of the proudest things” he has ever done.

The 77th annual Tony Awards will air at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 16, on CBS and Paramount+.

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