Rupert Grint wasn’t too put out when, in March, the pandemic halted production on ‘Servant’, the M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller about a couple who replace their dead baby with a doll.
His partner, actress Georgia Groome, was pregnant with their daughter, Wednesday, and the lockdown meant that Grint could savour the early months of her life in the sanctuary of their North London home.
He could also purge his mind of the freakish, claustrophobic ‘Servant’ world — a Philadelphia brownstone cluttered with baby paraphernalia, including, rather eerily, the same stroller they’d bought for Wednesday.
“I guess it’s not the best show to be involved with when you become a father,” said Grint, who plays the doll-baby’s brash, hard-drinking uncle, Julian. “The set does have this kind of weird energy because the tragic event that has taken place does linger in the walls. I’d often feel a sense of relief when I snuck off.”
Still, new fatherhood helped him to better understand the psychology of Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose), the show’s tormented mother, once he returned to set this fall.
“It’s something I wasn’t aware of about love,” he said, calling to discuss his cultural must-haves as Wednesday babbled in the background, “and how you’ll do anything to get your baby back.”
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
1. ‘Rose’s Turn’ From ‘Gypsy’, the Ethel Merman Version:
Weirdly, I’ve never seen the show, never seen a movie version. I don’t know how I’ve escaped it because I know it’s huge. But this winter, around Christmas, I heard the song by chance on the radio and got obsessed with it. There are just so many different levels to it. I know the context now, and it really moved me. I saw Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’) perform it on YouTube, which is absolutely incredible. But I love listening to Ethel’s version. Just the maternal kind of passion that comes through. I also think I’m going to be a huge stage mom, so maybe I was connecting to that.
2. Children’s Books by Tomi Ungerer.
I think Wednesday is still slightly young for them, but we’ve got a massive library ready for her. And these are great books — so ahead of their time and so beautifully illustrated. There’s one called ‘Otto’, and it’s the autobiography of this (teddy) bear, and I was an absolute wreck after reading it. It goes through his whole life, but I guess you could say it’s really about Auschwitz and how the bear experiences the camp. It sounds not suitable for kids, but I think Ungerer is not afraid of showing the darkness of humanity.
3. Miniature Pottery.
This has been a lockdown hobby that I’ve taken up. You actually throw pots on a proper wheel, which is about the size of a dollar coin. The wheel is something I’ve always been in awe of, just making something from something as raw as a blob of clay. It’s such a therapeutic thing, and you completely get lost in thought. They’re so quick as well. I’ve made some really cool things, like miniature vases, cookie jars, teapots. They’re an inch or a little bigger, kind of a doll’s house scale. They’re all completely useless.
4. Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Revisionist History’.
This has been my go-to night-time podcast for a while now. He has a great way of dissecting moments in history that I had no idea about and subverting them, making me understand what happened. It’s quite short and easy to digest. A really good one was the redo of the McDonald’s fries and how they changed the recipe over the years. Another was about Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Hallelujah’, the struggles he had writing it. It goes quite in depth about the kind of minutiae that I always, always love.
5. ‘The Curse of Oak Island’.
I have always been intrigued about this group of treasure hunters on this island off Nova Scotia. It’s this great ensemble of personalities of these quite weathered, denim-wearing men just obsessed with this treasure that possibly isn’t there. There’s something quite tragic about it, but also it’s just beautifully made. And the real treasure is them finding each other to do this thing that they can only do for a few months of the year. It’s never-ending.
6. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’.
It’s sheer escapism. I’ve always loved the Zelda world. It’s not like I’m some huge pro gamer, but this game absolutely took hours of my life. It has incredible stories, beautiful graphics. You can forage for berries and cook on a campfire. I haven’t completed it in its entirety, but it’s a really special piece of work. I don’t think gamers get enough credit for what they create. There are amazing worlds where you can completely immerse yourself when they’re done well. I think Zelda just may be perfect.
I’ve always loved board games and got a huge collection over the years. Probably about four years ago, Georgia and I got a backgammon board and taught ourselves to play. We take a board everywhere we go now. Everyone’s mad about chess after ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. But backgammon, I think, is an older game, and there’s an element of luck that involves the dice. We went through a phase of playing like 10 games a day. It really changes the brain.
8. Middle Child Sandwiches.
It’s an absolute go-to place that I discovered when I first went to Philly, and Philly is such a great place for food anyway that you don’t have to go far. Middle Child does one thing perfectly: The hoagie is the space it’s playing in. They’re simple but they’re just so good. And the decor is very hipster, very cool. I go for the Shopsin Club or the Surfer. You can’t go wrong there.
9. Urban Beekeeping.
I’ve done this for four years now. It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely fascinating. I’m not sure what prompted us to get into it, because I am terrified of being stung. Bees are such an important thing and watching them in this hive is just incredible — how hard they’re working and how each has a different job. There are nurse bees, and undertaker bees that carry out the dead bees like coffin-bearers. It’s insane to watch. I have one hive in our backyard, just in a quiet corner. They keep to themselves. You think you’d be invaded by bees everywhere, but they’re very deliberate. They know exactly where to go to get pollen. It’s a really happy colony. I am in absolute awe of the queen.
10. ‘Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule’.
I think he never really admitted it, but I find it fascinating that (John C. Reilly) has created this character that really is a whole different person. It’s just such an absurd character and so well-formed that he can let us know what they’re thinking. It’s a real skill to create something like that. I’m getting into more American comedy. Lots of old ‘SNL’ and ‘Tim & Eric’, which is where Steve Brule was born from. I love that anarchy and chaos they create.