Josh Radnor on the “Audacious Vision” of ‘Hunters,’ Al Pacino, and Directing Plans

     February 29, 2020

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From co-showrunners David Weil (who also created the series) and Nikki Toscano, the Amazon Prime Video original series Hunters follows a diverse band of Nazi hunters, lead by Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), living in 1977 New York City, who have discovered that hundreds of high-ranking Nazi officials are living among the population as they work to create a Fourth Reich. Leaving a trail of blood behind as they bring the Nazis to justice and attempt to stop their genocidal plans, Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman) finds himself in the middle of this secret world of vengeance and he must decide just how far he’s willing to go.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Josh Radnor (who plays Hunters team member Lonny Flash, a Jewish movie star with a personal family connection to the Holocaust) talked about the leap of faith that comes with signing on for a TV series, why he trusted the creative team, working with such an eclectic ensemble, the appeal of streaming services, finding the look for this character, having a better sense of who Lonny Flash is by the end of the season, and that he’d definitely like to write and direct another film.

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Image via Amazon

Collider: This show is completely bonkers. Was it also completely bonkers to make?

JOSH RADNOR: It was, although once you’re in a groove and you lock into something, it just seems like your creative life, all of a sudden. So, I certainly knew I was stepping into something weird, and then the weirdness gets a little normalized, the more you work on it, which is also trippy and fun.

These characters are all totally fascinating, even though we really don’t know anything about them, at least initially. Was that fun for you, or did you have a ton of questions, after reading the script?

RADNOR: Well, it’s a little bit of a leap of faith, just to say yes to a television series, anyway. I read the pilot, and that was it. Once I signed on, I read two more. But you just have to trust that the creators have a lot up their sleeve and know where they’re going because you don’t read the last page of the Season 1. You really have to trust that they’re gonna do something exciting. And also, in a weird way, you learn about your character, as you go. But if you have a good relationship with the creators, you can ask, and we certainly had good relationships with Nikki [Toscano] and David [Weil]. You could ask, “Where are we headed here?,” or they’d drop little hints, along the way, about certain things. So, I knew the overall shape of certain things, but I was still learning as I went. That’s why I think pilots are very difficult, even though I thought this pilot was really amazing. You get a longer run into a show, it just very naturally becomes richer and deeper and more dimensional because more gets revealed, and the actors and writers have so much more to draw on. So, starting things is hard. All of it’s hard, but they did a great job shooting us out of the cannon with just enough information to be compelling and mysterious. It feels a little bit like a time honored thing, with the posse in the Western, where you’re like, “Who are these outlaw weirdos that all got together?”

For someone like you, who comes from a background where you know how long you can be on a TV series, did it take you a minute to think about how long you’d really want to play this character?

RADNOR: That’s the leap of faith. Certainly, I think it’s more likely that you’re going to not go nine years on a series, than go nine years on a series. The odds of that happening are fairly slim. At the same time, you wanna be sure that what you’re saying yes to is compelling enough that you’ll stay interested for a long, or long-ish, run.

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Image via Amazon

At the same time, this is the first TV series that David Weil has created and he’s really swinging big. Did you also want to make sure that he could pull off what he was attempting to do?

RADNOR: I didn’t have any doubt of that, just because the pilot, itself, was so audacious and fully realized. And then, David really has a vision for this thing. He knows what he’s doing and he knew where the pitfalls were. You don’t know how something’s gonna be received, but no one’s going to accuse us of being timid. He’s really going for it. And I would rather be aligned with people who lean more towards an audacious vision than a safe vision.

I love that this is a show that can have extreme violence, but then also have a dance number to “Staying Alive.”

RADNOR: I know. He created such a large canvas that he had so much room to paint, with all of these different colors. I think it’s quite extraordinary, what he’s done.

This team of hunters is a very eclectic group of actors. What stage in the casting process did you sign on, and what was it like to see how the team came together, as different people kept getting added?

RADNOR: I actually think that I came in, on a little later side. Carol [Kane], Saul [Rubinek], Kate [Mulvany], Tiffany [Boone] and Louis [Ozawa] were all already signed on. I’m not privy to like how the casting process works, but certainly I knew that I was stepping into a formidable gang of actors, and that also sweetened the deal. You wanna know that you’re gonna be on a strong team.

How much fun is it to work with that team dynamic? How would you describe the team dynamic between your characters compared to what you guys are like together, as actors?

RADNOR: Well, I find on series television that there’s always some sort of meta side narrative going on. You have your on screen characters, and then you have this off screen life, which is not completely analogous, but there’s some resonance, in terms of roles that you play. For instance, you know, Meyer, who Al [Pacino] plays is this incredibly high-status leader, and off camera, Al Pacino is this incredibly high-status leader, and that translates on the stage. When Al would talk, we would listen, and when Meyer talks, characters listen. They honor that he has experience and he knows what the drill is. Even the hunters, off screen, all of us had such a good time. Because I come from the theater, my favorite thing is to find, in either television or movies, an ensemble that reminds you of a theater troupe. I think all of the actors have like strong theater backgrounds. I don’t know if Logan [Lerman] has done a play. He might’ve said that he hasn’t. Everyone else comes from the theater, in their background, and there was something about it that felt really familiar, like a great theater troupe. We were playing roles that were just very different for everyone, and we had a ball. It was just really fun.

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Image via Amazon Studios

You’ve been in this business long enough to see various shifts. What’s it like, as an actor, to have the landscape shift so much that you can go do a TV show with Al Pacino?

RADNOR: It’s certainly not something that I had penciled in on my career schedule. That was just a delightful, surprising thing that came up. And I think that’s the consequence of a lot of great stories right now. It’s so hard to get movies made, so a lot of the great stories are being told on television and you see a lot of the best actors saying “I still wanna tell great stories.” So, a lot of that energy has shifted towards television, and I’m really happy to be a part of all of those changes.

Do you watch streaming shows, yourself? Is that a part of your life?

RADNOR: Yeah, certainly. I’ve started consuming TV the way a lot of people have, which is completely on my own schedule, and I think it’s pretty great. I like the 10 to 12 episode thing. I like that you can watch them all, or you can piecemeal them out. There’s still some shows that are an event, and every week is pretty exciting. That’s how I grew up watching television and there’s still a kick to that, but at the same time there’s something nice to being able to set your own schedule with these whole things, as a viewer.

When it comes to this character, is there a prop or a costume that you feel most represents him, or is there something that you always do to get into character?

RADNOR: It’s hard for me to isolate a single costume piece because they all became vital. Sometimes you find a character working from outside in, and sometimes it’s inside out. This was a character that was more outside in, honestly. I went to have my consultation with the wardrobe people, and the hair and make-up people, and I had this big beard. I just hadn’t shaved for awhile, and the make-up gal looked at me and said, “I’m thinking mustache and chops.” And I was like, “That’s what I’m thinking.” So, we found this great facial hair look. And then I looked at myself and I didn’t, I didn’t look like myself. I looked like a different person. I went into the wardrobe fitting and they started putting me in all of these outrageous ‘70s duds, with jewelry and four buttons, unbuttoned down to my bellybutton. It changed my walk and the whole feeling in my body. From that, I just found the guy. I had shoes that I really loved. I had this leather jacket that I really loved. I had all of these pieces of jewelry that I really loved. Wearing these big, chunky rings made my hands do different things. Between the facial hair and the wardrobe, it all served to help me find this guy. What we choose to wear is really revelatory of our inner life, so for the guy who wears this kind of stuff, what’s going on internally? Why does he choose to dress like this? That all served me really well, as an actor.

The series also gets extremely violent, at times. Were there scenes like that, that were particularly challenging to shoot?

RADNOR: There was a fire scene that Kate and I did, in Episode 9, and we had a lot of flame retardant clothing and fire marshals on set, so logistically, that was hard. And the torture scene in Episode 5 was pretty gross. Sometimes there’s just a kick to being an actor and going, “Wow, I’ve never done this before.” I hadn’t fired a gun in a show before, so I got weapons training. There’s just a kick to doing something new, and every day on this show, there was something that I hadn’t done yet, as an actor, and that was just really amazing.

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Image via Amazon Studios

By the end of the season, do you think we’ll feel differently about your character compared to how we felt, at the beginning?

RADNOR: I would hope so. Obviously, you wanna have a journey where there’s transformation, and he’s someone who’s wearing a big mask, as a lot of people is in the show actually are. You see that mask drop, in various moments, and you see a hurt, suffering person underneath. That’s the juice, as an actor. You really want that journey. So, by the end of the season, I think you’ll feel different.

Did you also feel like, by the end of the season, you had a better sense of who he is and that you’ve grown to understand him more?

RADNOR: Yeah. A lot of that is just that, the longer you spend some time in someone’s shoes, you understand what makes them tick. And also, if the writing is good, and this writing was very good, it makes sense. The characters behave appropriately. Even if it looks insane, from a normal standpoint, it’s appropriate, in the way that the character would respond. I just felt like the character made so much sense, the more I played him. I knew how he would respond in this situation.

Having already done Liberal Arts and Happythankyoumoreplease, are you looking to write and direct another film again soon? Do you have anything ready to go?

RADNOR: Yeah, I have a bunch of stuff that’s either done or ready to go. The problem is – and I don’t know if this is a problem – since How I Met Your Mother, I’ve been working so much, as an actor, which is great, and I’ve been making music with my friend Ben [Lee], and writing plays. I just feel like I don’t exactly care what form it is, I just like telling stories, but I really miss making movies. I loved the experience of writing and directing those first two. So, all I can say is that, yes, there will be more, for sure.

Hunters is available to stream at Amazon Prime.

Television