Tuesday 18th Oct 2016
Comedian, singer and Fantastic Beasts actor Dan Fogler talks to the Pottermore Correspondent about his career, jumping at the chance to work in the wizarding world and the homemade costume he wore to his audition.
‘If the Harry Potter universe calls, you don’t hesitate,’ says Dan Fogler, in his trademark gravelly Brooklyn accent. ‘If you have an opportunity to be a part of it, you jump on, hold on and stay on for as long as you can’.
The actor, who plays No-Maj Jacob Kowalski in J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, thought it was ‘a long shot’ when he went to audition for the role.
‘I put a little costume together, made of what I thought Jacob would wear. You know, suspenders and cut-off hobo gloves and a patchy newsboy cap…’ – Dan chortles heartily at the memory – ‘I was very furry and shaggy. So, I went in and I felt really good about the audition. I flew out to the UK and did a screen test, but then my agent told me, “Well they’re going to look at a bunch of people.” You know, “Next time champ, don’t worry about it!” I had heard about a few people auditioning [for the part of Jacob], so I put it out of my mind.’
Picture the scene: July 2015 and Dan was at San Diego Comic-Com selling his own comic books on the packed show floor. Hauling great boxes of his work through the heaving crowd, the last thing he was thinking about was Fantastic Beasts.
‘I just felt very low, in throngs of costumed people pulling towards me. I was making my way upstream like a lone salmon,’ he says.
That’s when his phone rang.
‘I got the call and they were like, “Hey, you’ve got the part.” It was amazing. It was life-changing right then and there. A bolt of lightning. It was just incredible, like everything that came before had been a dream.’
Comic-Con 2016 was a little bit different for Dan. This time he went from panel discussion to autograph signing to a Facebook Live Q&A with Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller. He watched as a brand new trailer for Fantastic Beasts aired for the first time in front of thousands of screaming fans. He found himself smack-bang in the middle of the fandom for one of the biggest movies of the year.
Dan has built a career in comedy, music and cult horror, acting alongside actors like Christopher Walken, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Alba and Aaron Eckhart. He won a Tony Award in 2005 for his performance in the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; he is one-half of comedy rock band 2nd Rate and his voice acting credits include Kung Fu Panda and American Dad.
‘You know what’s been interesting about my career?' he says. 'It’s been this slow rise with long plateaus. I’ve had time to taste fame but I definitely lean towards being the kind of actor where I’m happy to be able to walk down the street and go to the corner store and not get hassled. I don’t know what it’ll be like when the movie comes out. All I know is that I will try to be myself. I’ll probably just hunker down with my family and do some baking.’
Dan Fogler cherishes the story of how he came to be Jacob Kowalski. Who, by the way, didn’t exactly look like Dan had imagined the day of his audition. As it turns out, Academy Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood had other ideas for his character’s outfit.
‘Oh, it was nothing like what I thought,’ says Dan. ‘I came dressed as a newsboy – that’s what I had available. But what Colleen put together was very close to a [Charlie] Chaplin suit, with the waistcoats and the layers. There were different coloured buttons on it and little coloured fringes. I imagined it was his only suit; a borrowed suit that didn’t really fit right, but it’s all Jacob had. Costumes like that feed your character so much information.’
His Chaplin-like suit told Dan a lot about Jacob: he lived in one of Dan's favourite eras – the 1920s; he lived on the Lower East Side of New York; he was an ordinary man who got swept up the beautiful chaos that happens when magic is present. In that sense, Dan and Jacob are not so different.
‘It was really just delicious,’ says Dan about working on a fantasy film. ‘I was surrounded by amazing, top notch, talented people and it was just a pleasure to come to work every day just to see what everyone brought to the table. In every scene there was a nugget of real magic.
‘With acting, you have this force on the silver screen and it can hit a person – or lots of people – in the audience and it moves them. That’s magic. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s magic.'