Daniel Radcliffe and Our Lady J: The Odd Couple
By Noah Michelson
When the Harry Potter franchise sends the eighth, and final, film adaptation of author J.K. Rowling's multibillion dollar publishing phenomenon to the big screen next summer, expect to hear the collective wail of heartbroken fans echoing throughout cineplexes as the young wizard rides off into the celluloid sunset on his Firebolt broomstick. But don't expect Daniel Radcliffe to join the chorus. Yes, the 21-year-old actor, who was just 12 in 2001 when he donned Harry Potter's trademark circular specs after beating out 40,000 hopefuls for the role, happily sacrificed his teenage years to bring the beloved character to life. But along with the fame, adoration, and monster paychecks came the exhaustion of struggling to maintain his own identity and the mounting pressure to ensure that once Potter was finished, his career wouldn't wither in the long, magical shadow of his fictional counterpart.
That, it seems, is not going to be a problem. Though Radcliffe is in many ways still relatively new to the industry (his first networking trip to Los Angeles took place earlier this year), he's no stranger to unorthodox career choices. He has already made two of the gutsiest moves a teenage screen actor can make: He starred on Broadway (in Peter Shaffer's Equus), and he did it completely naked. Next year, Radcliffe will push even further from his decade-long stint at Hogwarts with a return to the Great White Way in a revival of the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a remake of the 1930 war classic All Quiet on the Western Front, and the lead role in The Woman in Black, a ghost story from the revered (and recently revived) film studio Hammer. These atypical projects suggest an actor who is growing into himself, more attracted to taking risks than playing it safe.
Radcliffe's personal interests are just as unexpected as his professional ones. He has become one of the queer community's most visible allies, speaking out against homophobia and filming public service announcements for the Trevor Project, the leading organization focusing on suicide prevention efforts among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. In 2009, when the British tabloids played a salacious guessing game about the nature of his friendship with American trans singer-songwriter Our Lady J, Radcliffe didn't jump to fire off a press release to refute the claims, as many straight young leading men would do. He's better than that. Instead, he simply gushed about how talented he thought she was and left the world to think whatever it wanted about their relationship.
Radcliffe and Our Lady J let Out sit in on a conversation about the upcoming penultimate Potter movie, the thrills and potential hazards of dating when you're one of the world's most recognizable bachelors, and why the actor is earning big points in tranny heaven.
Daniel Radcliffe: Hi, J, how are you?
Our Lady J: I'm very well and you?
DR: I'm very, very well. I've just finished Potter properly yesterday.
OLJ: Did they let you keep the glasses?
DR: Yes! I've got two pairs from the seventh film and the pair I wore in the very, very first movie -- which are really tiny on my head now! So what have you been up to?
OLJ: I've been in L.A., finishing up my album. There are too many distractions in New York. The only thing to distract me in L.A. is the beach.
DR: I was just in L.A. for the first time in my life. I went for the premiere of the fifth [Harry Potter] film, but other than that, I'd never really gone there before. So I went for five days and did my first round of meetings and going to studios. It was very exciting.
OLJ: You just made your first trip to Hollywood?
DR: People seem to have a very bizarre perception of me -- that I'm a Hollywood actor. I don't think of myself that way. And when I was out there and telling people it was pretty much my first trip, jaws just hit the floor. They were looking at me like I had two heads.
OLJ: So I wanted to clear up a couple of rumors, if we may. You are not actually Harry Potter, right?
DR: No, not really.
OLJ: And I'm not the transsexual incarnation of Narcissa Malfoy, right?
DR: [Laughs] No, you are not. I can confirm that neither of those things are true.
OLJ: [Laughs] OK, OK. Good. It's funny because with that little tabloid thing that happened a year ago with us, I actually got all these strange e-mails to my website asking 'What is Harry Potter like?' And I just thought, I have no idea, actually.
DR: It's strange. I think it's a mixture of people who actually do, in some way, think I am Harry Potter and a number of people who can't be bothered to know my name, which is fair enough. I mean, when you've been so identified with one character for so long, it's natural that it should almost become an alias. But I've been encouraged lately to find that people are using my real name more often.
OLJ: You're coming to New York for your second Broadway show, this time a musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. What is it that you love so much about New York?
DR: I love the city as a whole, absolutely, but I love Broadway. And the community on Broadway is something that you hear talked about and talked about by other English actors who've been over there. And you think, Well, OK. How could it be that different or that much better? Because they make it sound amazing. And then you come to New York, and you actually experience [Broadway], and it is like nothing else. We were across the road from Gypsy when we did Equus, and we were constantly hanging out with them after the show, and it was fantastic. And we went and met with the cast from The Seagull and Black Watch a couple of times. It's very, very hard to actually describe why New York is so brilliant. But the community is amazing, and if you get involved with all those events, and you show how much you love and appreciate being there, you really get nothing but generosity and kindness back.
OLJ: I was surprised, actually, when I first moved to New York that these people are doing eight shows a week on Broadway, and yet on their night off, they're going down to Marie's Crisis or whatever their favorite cabaret bar is, and they're still singing or they're doing a benefit on Monday night. It's so obvious that they're in love with the craft.
DR: I've got to mention Sean Hayes, who is in Promises, Promises at the moment, which is a fantastic show. Up until he hosted the Tony Awards, he was rehearsing. The hours he was doing and the commitment he showed -- because the Tony Awards is not just an awards show, it's a massive Broadway party, and for him to be showing both huge commitment to that and his own show as well -- was amazing.
OLJ: Speaking of which, it's pretty impressive that you were shooting two films over an entire year and trained for Broadway at the same time. How did you handle that?
DR: Training for Broadway is an ongoing process. I've been doing dance lessons for about a year and a half, at this point, and singing for two and a half years. But the singing lessons actually stemmed from having to sing the Milky Bar [candy ad] theme tune at the very beginning of Equus. For some reason, I kept inventing a new tune every night. So they sent me off to this guy, Mark Meylan, who, among other people, taught Alan Rickman [Harry Potter's Professor Snape] to sing. To use Alan's words, 'Mark Meylan teaches through sarcasm.' He sort of just abuses you as you get it right. He's also just a lovely, kind, and brilliant man.
OLJ: What kind of music are you listening to these days? You're always passionate about your artists.
DR: An English singer-songwriter called Frank Turner. He's absolutely brilliant. Oh, the Drums -- I quite like a couple of songs by them. The Divine Comedy's new album is really, really good. It's called Bang Goes the Knighthood, and it's very, very funny and sad. And of course, I'm still listening to Florence and the Machine. 'My Boy Builds Coffins' was a song I listened to a lot this year when I was playing Harry. It felt like the right tone.
OLJ: I'm obsessed with Florence and the Machine as well. I like depressing music. Do you listen to it when you're getting ready in your dressing room?
DR: Or on set just before we start filming. I've always found music was just the most helpful thing in terms of getting into a scene, other than working myself up into a little bit of a frenzy.
OLJ: Well, aside from music, I have a Miss America question for you. When we met during the last big U.S. election, I was so excited to find out you're passionate about politics. Have you been able to pay attention to politics in the last year, in between filming and training for Broadway?
DR: I've been trying to. Certainly, British politics have been fantastic. I've not been keeping up with America quite as much.
OLJ: I've paid a bit of attention to the politics of Nick Clegg [leader of the government's coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats]. Are you a fan?
DR: I'm a very big fan. I've actually met him, and I have to say he's a really, really good man. I don't agree with everything he says, but of all the party leaders, he was the one I voted for. I thought he was a great speaker and very charismatic and very statesmanlike. And I'm glad that he is still in a prominent position in British politics because I think he could make a great contribution. He comes from absolutely the right place in terms of what his values are.
OLJ: Traveling the world, I've noticed that people are just so ecstatic that Obama is in office. And in the LGBTQ community, he's making baby steps. But is there anything you would like to see for the LGBTQ community around the world, not just in the U.S. or the U.K.?
DR: Well, obviously, in general terms, yes. The world needs to become better educated, but I would defer to you slightly on that, J, because I would never profess to be an expert. What would be high on your priority list?
OLJ: Well, I was impressed that Obama declared June national LGBT month, because change begins with education. But he also extended benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees, which is a pretty big deal. And then the U.S. State Department has a new policy that allows transgender people to change the genders on their passport to match their identity, rather than their sex, which I'm completely relieved about. It's a bit of a hassle when you go through an airport.
DR: That really does sound very important and vital to people who are making that transition, because otherwise you presumably, as you say, still have that moment in airports when you're forced to offer a look of explanation or something, which is totally unnecessary.
OLJ: Exactly. A lot of people keep it light and make a joke of it just to get through. But there have been circumstances where it's been a little bit more difficult than that. How about your involvement with the Trevor Project? How did that come about?
DR: My family and I have always thought it was best to focus our efforts rather than kind of spreading ourselves too thin across a lot of different organizations -- just really picking things that you care about and really, really believe in, and Trevor absolutely was one of them. And when I got to have a tour of the New York call center, my admiration for the projects, but also for the place and the people, tripled. The systems they have in place, the actual way the call center works on a practical level, is so brilliant and efficient. It's something I'm very, very proud to be able to be involved with.
OLJ: My friend Kate Bornstein has a book called Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide For Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, and it's comical but still a sincere way of preventing suicide among youth. Her philosophy is 'Just stay alive.'
DR: That is a brilliant philosophy -- to just keep going. There was a great quote I heard the other day from Churchill: 'When you're going through hell, just keep going.' I just love it. Why stop?
OLJ: Beautiful. I've been traveling the world a bit and getting to know other trans women, and something that they're all surprised with regarding transgender people in America is that here, we mostly identify with the gay community because of the threat of violence toward us from within the straight community.
OLJ: In the world, I find -- generally -- many transsexuals are technically heterosexual women because gender and sexuality are different things. I wonder if we're becoming more fluid in gender and sexuality as a whole?
DR: I think that with every generation, people become more open to those ideas and more aware and more educated. But it's a really, really slow process. If you take any family with parents who are bringing their kids up in a narrow-minded way that includes homophobia, it will take a very profound moment of realization to change those deep-seated views.
OLJ: Do you think there's a stigma with men who date transgender women, or is it just kept in the dark?
DR: I think to a certain extent, there would be a stigma -- it depends on which person you're talking to. But I certainly think in this day and age it would be less of an issue. I was on the [Harry Potter] film set when all that tabloid stuff happened with us hanging out last year and none of my friends gave me shit about it. Nobody took the piss. And the film set encompasses groups from every area of society, and I have to say it's a pretty good cross-section. There was certainly no stigma.
OLJ: The tabloid obsession is something that's so new. Transgender people are a small portion of the population, but we don't have a very strong voice right now. And I think people are surprised that we integrate with society just like everyone else does. We're not just a cluster of people living on Mars, although sometimes I wish we were. [Laughs]
DR: There is a novelty factor, almost, with some people. I grew up in a world where I was aware of gay and transgender culture from a very young age, because I was brought up with a real mix of people around me. And people who have a huge, different range of experiences. But not everyone grows up in the same circumstances.
OLJ: That's why you're getting major points in tranny heaven for doing this interview, because it is exposure and it is important. Are we allowed to talk about your love life?
DR: Yes. It's very uninteresting, but you're more than welcome to.
OLJ: What's happening?
DR: I was in a relationship with somebody for just about three years, and we broke up just shortly before we hit that mark. But [the breakup] was very amicable. At the moment, I'm just being single and running around chasing girls. [Laughs] I'm not getting too many responses, but, yes, I'm having a go. I'm also starting to go on dates for the first time. I've never really done it because all my girlfriends that I've ever met, I've met through work. So we got to know each other really well at work and then kind of ended up going out.
OLJ: What is it like to go on dates as Daniel Radcliffe?
DR: It's quite nerve-racking because it's not something I'm used to. Not that I struggle with talking, but I have this incredible anxiety about awkward silences and pauses and all that stuff, which I think everybody worries about. But I get quite wound up about that beforehand. I do actually manage to get quite chatty in the end -- probably too much -- and probably a bit boring. I just try to make girls laugh. That's really the only thing I'm particularly good at on dates.
OLJ: Well that'll give the ladies of New York City something to look forward to when you're in town.
DR: [Laughs] I can't pretend I haven't thought about that a couple of times. I've already had people offering to set me up!
OLJ: Well, if you ever need any help, I have a few girlfriends.
DR: Oh, fantastic. You'll have to introduce me.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is in theaters November 19. Our Lady J's new single, 'Hurt,' is available on iTunes.
To see our slide show of Terry Richardson's photos from the Daniel Radcliffe and Our Lady J cover shoot, click here.
To read our interview with Our Lady J, click here.
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, and operates a 24/7 lifeline (1-866-4-U-TREVOR). For more information and to find out how you can help, visit www.thetrevorproject.org.