You've seen the photo: "Harry Potter" hero Daniel Radcliffe in a bathtub with "Mad Men" anti-hero Jon Hamm. It's a scene from the A-listers' new TV collaboration, the darkly funny British miniseries, "A Young Doctor's Notebook." And now, the rest of the story.
It's not a romance thing. In fact, the series — an adaptation of Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov's autobiographical short stories — finds Radcliffe and Hamm playing fresh-out-of-med-school and older versions of the same character, so the bathtub scene is actually each actor bathing with ... himself?
"It was a very funny scene to film," Radcliffe tells Yahoo TV. "It was also one of those scenes where you just go, 'This photo is going to go everywhere.' As soon as the photographer came in to take the shots, we were like, 'Yep, this is the shot. This is the shot for the series.'"
Radcliffe, whose character is officially known as "Young Doctor" to Hamm's "Older Doctor," plays the newbie doc who is sent off to care for the residents of a remote Russian village in the early 1900s. The lack of medical technology, his own inexperience, and the staff's current reminders of their old boss (Leopold Leopoldovich) make him a nervous wreck. He eventually deals with his often dark (and just as often darkly funny) situation — as we learn via the narration of Hamm's older version of the character while he reads his own notebooks about his experiences — by taking an ever-increasing amount of drugs.
As the four-episode first season of "A Young Doctor's Notebook" unfolds on Ovation, Radcliffe talked to Yahoo TV about some of the series' grossest moments, his chemistry with Hamm, and whether he would consider starring in an American TV series.
Oh, and no one's feeling too sorry for him for that bathtub scene with Hamm — Radcliffe assures us that he did get a cool memento of their bath time (which happens in Episode 4).
"I actually have the loofah from that scene still," he says. "I was given it as an end-of-series present [after Season] 2. I shall treasure it always."
You were incredibly abused by every manner of bodily function in this series.
Yes, really, I'm just covered in all kinds of blood and throat and eye pus at any given moment in "A Young Doctor's Notebook." It's not pretty.
Were you at all squeamish about that? Because there are a couple of scenes that definitely make you cover your eyes.
Oh yeah, but that's what's fun about doing those scenes, is that you see what goes into them. You see the air pump being rigged up to squirt the blood out. You see the practicality behind the grossness, which allows you to enjoy it more at the time.
I love working with prosthetics people, because basically there are two kinds of prosthetics people. There are people that love making monsters and crazy stuff that doesn't exist, and there are people that love making stuff that is totally real and lifelike and gory and terrifying. That's what we obviously called for in [this series]. Vicky [Voller], our prosthetics artist, is amazing, and is always coming in with a bowl of innards for someone to carry around or something terrible.
What attracted you to "A Young Doctor's Notebook"? Was it more the dark humor or that you loved the source material?
In no small part it was that I loved the source material. I've been a fan of [Mikhail] Bulgakov since I was about 18. When somebody said to me that they were adapting [his short stories for TV], I literally thought they were joking at first. I thought somebody was messing with me. I was just so excited to read these great scripts and to see that they'd done such an inventive, exciting take on them. I wouldn't have been able to be a part of it in good conscience if I hadn't been happy with the source material. It's a brilliant adaptation. It does what it has to do to make it TV ready, if you know what I mean. For example, in the book, the leg amputation is probably only two or three paragraphs, and obviously that accounts for a lot [in the TV series]. Certain weight was given to more moments than given to others from the book, but it really did honor the spirit of it brilliantly. I was thrilled.
Is Bulgakov's writing as tinged with dark humor as the TV series is?
It is. The thing with Bulgakov, it's interesting, because if you look at different things different people say about him, particularly this book, some people don't find it funny at all. I find it hilarious. When I read it, I found it a really funny book, just because Bulgakov has a really light touch as a writer a lot of the time, and sometimes the lightness of his touch is so starkly contrasted to the gravity of the things he's talking about that it does become very funny. It's not like there are joke jokes, but it's a funny book.
You and Jon Hamm have fantastic chemistry. Was that immediate, or was it a little weird to figure that out since you're playing the same character?
I think Jon and I both ... when you're working on something like this, and you're playing the same character, you do put in a conscious effort to find little idiosyncrasies that you can build into both performances that act as little visual reminders of the fact that we're the same character. Because it's always that thing of when you're doing a TV show, you obviously set up in the first episode that the doctor is the older version of myself, and I'm the younger version of him, but you sort of also do have to bear in mind that people can tune in at any time during a series, so you have to find ways of restating that point softly as you go along.
There were little things that we did to do that. Other than that, again, I think when people talk about chemistry, often what they mean is just being interested in one another, and Jon and I definitely, just from hanging out on set and chatting and talking about our shared love of many obscure British comedies, we definitely had some time to get to know one another.
Season 1 is airing now, you've finished filming Season 2 ... is there any chance that there will be a Season 3, or is it definitely done at 2?
I've learned to never say never with these things, really. After the first [season] ended, I thought, there's no way we can continue this. Then the scripts for the second [season] came in and were more challenging and even funnier. I don't know, but the writing in this series is so clever that any ideas they have I will always be open to.
You've done guest appearances on TV shows before, but especially since it ended up being two seasons so far, this is your first regular TV series role. How did you like the experience of a TV series?
I loved it, and I also think it's important to say this is a very easy TV schedule for me. We shoot this for 20 days over the summer, so it's not like the six-, seven-month commitment people normally make to do a TV series. But I do, I love it for that. I love the chance to ... this is a project that is too long to make a film of and is not really a film, in terms of the content of it. But it's too short to do an American-style, 22 episode series. It's one of the lovely things about British TV — that it allows for these little four-episode series of weirdness to exist, so I'm very happy about that.
Would you ever consider doing a regular American series, a 13-episode cable show, or a 22-episode series?
I would. I don't think in the immediate future that would be something that I want to do, because it is such a time commitment. I just worked with both Jon Hamm and Michael C. Hall [on "Kill Your Darlings"], and they've always had fantastic times [on TV] ... but it's a long commitment, and for me, it would almost be like signing on to something the length of "Harry Potter" again, which doesn't seem like the right thing to do just now.
Are you a big TV watcher? We just read you're a big NFL fan.
I'm a huge NFL fan, and I'm a huge quiz-show watcher, but that's really the extent of my TV show watching. I've spent the last week trying to escape hearing what happened in the end of "Breaking Bad," because I've heard so many people tell me about it that I do want to watch it.
Watch the trailer:
"A Young Doctor's Notebook" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and in encore showings on Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Ovation.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Daniel Radcliffe
- Jon Hamm
- Mikhail Bulgakov