Daniel Radcliffe on Playing a Neo-Nazi in ‘Imperium’: “It’s still just horrible to say some of this stuff”

Actor Daniel Radcliffe

Though Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter, he has taken on a number of remarkably different roles since the long-running blockbuster series wrapped up several years ago. In Imperium, Radcliffe plays an FBI agent who goes undercover as a neo-Nazi, which is based on a true story. In an interview with Fast Company, Radcliffe reveals what interested him in the script, how he played such a layered character, and what it felt like to say his character’s hate-filled dialogue.

One aspect that initially drew Radcliffe to the script was that it didn’t end in some kind of take-no-prisoners shootout. He explains, “Often in these kinds of scripts you’ll have a character that’s set up as being smart and that’s how he overcomes obstacles in the first two-thirds of the film, but then in the last act, it’s just, ‘Ah fuck it, give him a gun.’ And it’s nice to see a script that has the balls to keep him unarmed and using his brain until the end.”

On set, Radcliffe had numerous discussions with director Dan Ragussis about how to portray his character effectively on two levels — showing the audience his neo-Nazi “mask” while showing the FBI agent underneath. He says, “Something I deferred to Dan [Ragussis] on all the time was working out how good Nate is at hiding his feelings. Because you want to show the audience stuff that you don’t want to show the character you’re in the scene with, so it’s sort of trying to find that line of showing I’m shit-scared in a way that they can see it without the guy I’m with being like, ‘Hey, you’re obviously shit-scared—presumably you’re FBI.’ It was hard to make sure you know where he is emotionally at all times but make it believable that the people he’s with wouldn’t.”

The most difficult part of making the film for Radcliffe was spewing the hate speech that his character says — even though he knew everybody understood it was part of the script, he still felt “horrible” to say it to his fellow actors and in front of the crew. He confesses, “No swear words can offend me but when you get to the racial stuff, it’s like, oh yeah, this is the last bastion of what is really truly horrible and offensive. There’s a reason those words are powerful. Even though you know that everybody knows and understands that you’re acting and this in no way reflects on you, it’s still just horrible to say some of this stuff, so I found myself going up to some of the actors between takes and apologizing: ‘I know you know, and I know I don’t have to, but I just feel like I need to.'”

Leave a Reply

William H. Macy: “This may sound pretentious, but I am getting better at what I do every day”
"I love the fact that I work every day." - William H. Macy
Luke Hemsworth on ‘Westworld’: “It was a no-brainer to me. I was absolutely going to jump onboard”
"As an actor, if you're given very little information about what's going on, then you're forced to make it up." - Luke Hemsworth
Khary Payton on His ‘Walking Dead’ Audition: “It was one of the more substantial auditions I’ve ever done”
"I always say I’m in the hope business. You’ve got to stay hopeful. You’ve got to get up off your behind and try again..." - Khary Payton
Hayley Atwell’s Best Career Advice: “I’d say the main thing is: show up. Show up and be professional”
Atwell reflects on her career and recounts why she wanted to become an actress since she was a child and what was the best career advice she ever received.
Mike Colter on Playing ‘Luke Cage’: “I was looking at it from the standpoint of an artist”
Colter says that it didn't take long for him to understand the importance of the character in comic book history.