Rupert Grint, a star in one of the biggest franchises of all time, a new father, and the proud owner of an ice-cream van, there are few things that the young actor hasn’t achieved in his 32 years.
However, fans got to see a different side of Rupert in 2019 when he starred in psychological horror TV show Servant, a bizarre and compelling show about a family grieving the loss of their 13-week-old son Jericho whose lives are disrupted when they hire a new nanny, Leanne.
With the second season right around the corner, we sat down with Rupert to talk all about his character Julian, putting on an American accent, and of course, we mentioned Harry Potter.
UNILAD: What can Servant fans expect from Julian this season?
Rupert Grint: I think Julian’s a very different guy this season. We see more layers to him as he explores his grief more. This season picks up where we left off, in fact, it’s just a few hours after the season one finale, but the tone is very different.
The key thing that’s changed is Dorothy is kind of awake now but she can’t see the doll as Jericho, which changes the dynamic massively in the family.
So Julian’s role is to manage her and makes sure this doesn’t snowball into something they can’t control anymore with the police and the other elements that are against them, the stakes have changed a lot this season.
UNILAD: It’s interesting you mention grief, one of my favourite beats in the first episode, which you have with Dorothy, is when she accuses you of not believing in anything and through the season we see that Julian is either grieving or in denial about the situation he finds himself in.
Rupert Grint: Yeah completely I think he has to face up to a lot of things in this season and one of them is kind of ‘what he believes from a religious point of view’. I mean he is an atheist I think, he very much shuts all that out but he can’t deny that some really strange things are happening and also that’s tangled in ith his grief of finding Jericho and being the first one on the scene. I think throughout this season we see him tackle that, although not very effectively.
UNILAD: He’s an atheist! That’s interesting? Obviously, we’re British and atheism is an accepted thing here but in the US it’s a much more charged term and Dorothy actually calls him an atheist at one point. Do you think it was meant as an insult?
Rupert Grint: I think you’re right it has very different connotations over here, it’s a lot lesser of a word I think it carries a lot more weight in America where I think God is a lot more entwined with the culture.
So yeah I think it is meant as a dig because Julian is this really hedonistic guy, who’s obsessed with the material and getting wasted, which he is most of the time, so I think there’s something there that part of his identity.
UNILAD: You’ve hit on one of my later questions about Julian’s hedonism, which is probably best exemplified when he turns up in opera gear randomly one day claiming he has a life outside of the supernatural shenanigans going on in the house. But throughout the show we see him indulging his vices do we think that’s a defence mechanism for the character?
Rupert Grint: For sure, yeah it’s how he’s dealing with it. I think I think a lot of his brash front is very surface level and we see those layers peel back through the season.
Julian’s a very different character though he has a life outside of the house, you know? Everything we see is in the house for most of the characters but he flicks between two worlds and he brings a different energy to the house.
UNILAD: So do you have a rough idea of what Julian’s life outside the house really is?
Rupert Grint: Kind of it’s obviously never a focus but he works in the financial district and has a very demanding job which keeps him busy. That kind of ties into his love of getting intoxicated I think, it goes hand in hand.
UNILAD: We keep touching on peeling back Julian’s layers, one of the most insightful moments we get is during the hypnotism scene in episode two. Julian has such a visceral reaction to that, he’s both horrified and amused by it?
Rupert Grint: Yeah, he’s very cynical about all these new-age things, and it’s such a weird moment and he brought Roscoe into this situation so I think he feels guilty that he experienced this horrific thing.
Also though it’s unlocked something in him, there’s a few times this season where he’s faced with the absolute horror of what he found. You know none of the characters have really grieved, and I think we see how that comes out in different ways for different people and with Julian, he’s tortured by it.
UNILAD: It seems to me he’s using his denial as a shield?
Rupert Grint: Absolutely as I say it’s part of his brash bravado and that’s Julian, he’s always got an answer for everything and he uses that to distract himself from the truth. Not really knowing is something he can’t handle.
UNILAD: Let’s pull away from talking about Julian and talk about you playing Julian! When you were in the press tour for the first season, I know you spoke about how much work you put into the accent. Was it easy to slip back into Julian’s voice
Rupert Grint: No. No, it was hard it’s a real muscle you have to keep working and it helps being surrounded by… oh wait no most of us are British [laughs]. It’s something you’re always aware of and keep an eye on, but you don’t want to get hung up on it because then it gets you into more problems.
The Philadelphia accent is quite specific and finding those moments when you can lean on it is tough because most people can’t recognise it from other accents.
UNILAD: The Jericho doll, there’s a scene in one of the early episodes where you dress it as an astronaut and I was convinced the doll was going to move. Is it as creepy a prop in real life as it is in the show?
Rupert Grint: It is. It has a really weird energy and it was very different this time because I’ve just had a bay myself. It’s really realistic but it’s also, I don’t know, it’s a creepy thing to have around. The weight of it is identical to a newborn.
I actually own one of these things, I had a reborn doll for years…
Rupert Grint: It was a gift, it’s like a vampire baby it’s very strange.
UNILAD: I’m sorry you’re going to have to explain this a bit more, someone got you a vampire reborn doll?
Rupert Grint: I think it was a birthday gift I’ve had it for years sat on a shelf, looking absolutely terrifying. They’re amazingly made, the detail’s incredible it’s all hand-painted.
UNILAD: So would you say fatherhood has changed the way you think about a show like Servant?
Rupert Grint: Sure it’s given me a new perspective and an understanding that you’d do literally anything for your kid and it’s kind of terrifying. It’s given me a lot of perspective on Dorothy. It’s changed things because I had the baby during the break [production was paused during the pandemic] and we’d shot six episodes then I came back and we did the last four and it was very different.
UNILAD: I’ve only got two minutes left so it’s time for your contractually obligated Harry Potter question! If they were to reboot Harry Potter tomorrow and you were offered any part you wanted in it, except Ron, which would you take?
Ruper Grint: [Laughs] Oh I don’t know there are some good parts! I don’t think I’d be a very good Snape.
UNILAD: Oh you would…
Rupert Grint: Do you think? I don’t know, Alan had a real presence. I don’t know, Snape is a character I love.
UNILAD: Hear me out, there was a fan theory that Dumbledore was a time-travelling Ron, could you be the new Dumbledore?
Rupert Grint: There was, wasn’t there? I remember that! Oh yeah, I’d love to be Dumbledore I need a few years though…
UNILAD: Make-up’s very good these days Rupert…
Rupert Grint: It is, isn’t it and I’m not ageing that well [laughs] so it could be quite soon!
Servant, season two arrives on Apple TV+ on 15th Jan.
Topics: Featured, Apple, Apple TV+, Harry Potter, Rupert Grint