Illustration of Radcliffe in many roles, including Miracle Workers
From a boy with magical powers to a horned man accused of killing his wife, Daniel Radcliffe cannot be said to be a predictable actor. (Illustration by Peyton Shark, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

It’s a Miracle That ‘Miracle Workers’ Works as Well as It Does

After being the boy who lived, Daniel Radcliffe has had a bizarre acting career, to say the least, and his role in the American anthology series is no exception.

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Illustration of Radcliffe in many roles, including Miracle Workers

After being the boy who lived, Daniel Radcliffe has had a bizarre acting career, to say the least, and his role in the American anthology series is no exception.

Child stardom is a hard brand to shake. While it seems to impact female child stars more than their male counterparts, no one would disagree with the notion that playing a single character for your formative years would mess with both your public image and your sense of self. While some turn toward hypersexual or uber-cool personas to counteract their pre-pubescent public persona, a notable few — like “Harry Potter” superstar Daniel Radcliffe — rely on pure chaos to craft a new life.

Radcliffe’s Delightfully Bizarre Career After “Harry Potter”

In Radcliffe’s emergence from the “Harry Potter” black hole, he has embraced the strange. The only actor who comes to mind as a rival for Radcliffe’s bizarre brand is Robert Pattinson, who gained acclaim in the early aughts phenomenon “Twilight” and now does interviews where he talks about on-screen masturbation and searches for the perfect New York hot dog. Radcliffe seems to be a little less overtly provocative in his interviews, but his extensive career since he was the boy who lived is no less weird.

The beginning of Radcliffe’s foray into the outlandish can be tracked to his role in the play “Equus” in 2011, which is so unusual that it warrants its own Wikipedia skim (content warning: contains themes of bestiality and animal violence). Since then, Radcliffe has also starred in “Horns,” where he plays a man who spontaneously grows horns after the murder of his wife and is subsequently presumed to be responsible for her death (if you elect to watch it, trigger warning for rape/sexual assault, and more info on TW/CWs can be found here).

Radcliffe also had a prominent role in “Swiss Army Man,” where he plays a sentient corpse who serves as a human swiss army knife and borderline love interest to the film’s lead, portrayed by Paul Dano (trigger warning for an interrupted suicide attempt, and you can get more info on TW/CWs here.) After so many peculiar roles, Radcliffe’s latest stint as an ensemble member on “Miracle Workers” seems almost normal but is no less charming.

Radcliffe’s Role in “Miracle Workers”

In “Miracle Workers,” Radcliffe appears alongside some relatively new names like Lolly Adefope, a stand-up comedian and star in “Shrill” and “Ghosts,” and Geraldine Viswanathan, who gained much of her fame from the 2018 film “Blockers” and is much more successful at trading in her charming Australian accent for an American drawl than Radcliffe. Steve Buscemi is also on the cast list and definitely gives Radcliffe a run for his money in terms of being an undeniably eccentric public persona.

“Miracle Workers” uses its star-studded cast well. The first season, which premiered in 2019, definitely has the most interesting premise, but the show, now in its third season, remains a fun watch.

The first season sees the cast as heavenly workers and Buscemi as God. It covers many of the issues currently facing the Earth’s population, including (but by no means limited to) global warming, mass war casualties and disturbing revelations about those in power. The show is a wonderful watch if viewers are looking to escape some of the heavy dread they may be feeling about the state of the world. However, in retrospect, the hopeful tone does feel a little bitter, as the year following its release, 2020, ushered in a pandemic that has wrecked countless lives. Viewing it with this in mind may sour the tone, especially if you’ve been personally touched by COVID-19.

Luckily, the seasons are stand-alone, so if you want to try “Miracle Workers” out but don’t feel like watching anything that puts a positive or comedic spin on current events, you can still do so. The second season, which aired in 2020, has the cast transported back to the Dark Ages, and it is the last season in which Adefope joins the ensemble. Her performance is charming, as is the rest of the cast’s, even if the plot feels slightly less thought through than the first season.

“Miracle Workers: Oregon Trail”

The most recent season regains some of the momentum “Miracle Workers” had in 2019, with a structured plot and goal despite keeping to the kitschy genre play of Season 2. Here, the cast ventures out across the Oregon Trail, though jokes about dysentery are mostly skipped. Adefope’s absence is definitely felt (though viewers can turn to “Ghosts” to get their fix), but Quinta Brunson’s guest role as Buscemi’s outlaw daughter is a strong addition and one hopes she may consider joining the permanent cast if a fourth season is made.

This season is also the one that will probably garner the most online attention, as it does include a drag inspired performance from Radcliffe that is surprisingly well done, though its plot placement makes one wonder if Radcliffe was just feeling a little too constricted by the straightlaced reverend character he’s been playing for most of the season. There’s also a fun Easter egg in the romantic introduction of Erin Darke, who is Radcliffe’s real partner, though she does not capture the spotlight in quite the same way as Brunson.

“Miracle Workers: Oregon Trail” is not the perfect product though; for instance, the crass humor with Jon Bass feels forced as it is riddled with outdated social commentary about hipsters (honestly does anyone actually do Instagram influencing in earnest anymore?), though that could be attributed to the millennial makeup of the cast and crew. All in all, it’s a relatively small price to pay to see Radcliffe give a metaphorical middle finger to J.K. Rowling with his feather boa.

For anyone interested, “Miracle Workers” can be found airing on Tuesday nights on TBS or on HBO Max.

Writer Profile

L.R. Staples

Sarah Lawrence College
Creative Writing

LR Staples is a rising junior at Sarah Lawrence College. She loves dogs, fresh laundry and feminist horror books. Her writing process involves looking pensive and scrolling through autocorrect options.

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