Does the fact that Billy seeks escape through film resonate with you? It does, in that Billy is ambitious. He refuses to accept that his life is going to be what it is now, and I think that is why I respond to the character so much. Though any parallels are superficial because mine and Billy's experience with the film industry is very different. He gets chewed up and spat out by it and I just love it. But in terms of finding an escape and doing something that people think you can't do, or people think you're unconventional for, I can certainly relate to that. I'm fully aware there are not an abundant number of five foot five leading men! And by the way I'm also the only celebrity of my height that I know of who gives his actual height when asked, and doesn't wear Cuban heels…
Do you ever think about what path you would've taken if it wasn't for Harry Potter? If I hadn't played Harry Potter I find it hard to believe I would have become an actor. David Copperfield was my first job but I never really viewed it as something serious - it was more something to get me out of school. I think I would have ended up in the film industry in some aspect because of my parents both being in the industry and because I certainly wouldn't have achieved anything in the world of academia. We all accepted that. It is a big thing to ponder; in fact I was just thinking the other day about what would've happened had I not been in Harry Potter. In a way that's a theme in The Cripple of Inishmaan because it's about opportunities and missed opportunities. It's a game I play sometimes; imagining where I would be now. But I generally end up going ‘thank god I'm not there' [laughs].
Dan: Yes, he does! We learned early on--there was one scene in the play that features a very drastic act of violence. And in the script, the stage direction says the scene goes to black before we actually see the act. But we turned around to Martin and said, "If we could do that violence effectively, would you prefer to see it?" And he nodded very emphatically! If you present Martin with two options, and one of them involves a good deal more blood and gore, he will go with that one.
You’re playing the character known as Cripple Billy. How are you preparing for this role physically?
Dan: Well, it’s never actually pinned down in the play what exactly the matter is with Billy. He’s introduced in the first scene: "Billy enters, one arm and leg crippled, shuffling." And then you hear in the play that it was a disability that was visible from birth. But really, you’re not given a huge amount of information.
Susan: So you’re piecing together clues!
Dan: Yes! So I’ve decided, based on what information you do get from the play, that cerebral palsy was a viable option for what Billy could have had. And so I’ve been working with a coach who has very mild cerebral palsy herself. And she was able to explain the mechanics of the condition to me, as well as teaching me how to walk and pick things up and move around, as if I’m heavily disabled on one side. It’s one of the odder skills I’ve had to learn. It has very few practical applications, besides doing a play.
Dan: There was one moment that was quite funny, actually. One night, I was walking to the shop around the corner from my house to get some food, and I thought, "There’s no one around—I’ll just walk like I’m Billy for a while." So, I put my hood up so no one would notice me, and I started walking down the road in Billy’s walk, and just as I get to the corner, and I’m about to go into the shop, I notice that a woman is behind me. And in my head I’m going, "Well, I can’t just stop and suddenly break into a normal walk as I walk into the shop, so I’m just going to wait for her to pass me before I go in." Otherwise, she’ll think, "Who's that weirdo, pretending to be disabled?" Then she went into the shop that I was headed into, so I had to wait for her to come out so that I could resume my normal walk and go into the shop. Yeah—so—that was my experience preparing for this part!