Grint saw the post-Potter years as an opportunity to start from scratch. Indies, comedies, “dangerous environments” where he had to think on his feet. Critics turned their noses up, but he was happy working. “I couldn’t see an obvious next step, so I just did anything in front of me,” he says. “I just wanted to get the passion back.” Alan Rickman encouraged him to try theatre, so in 2013, he starred in a revival of Jez Butterworth’s Mojo. In rehearsals, he was scolded by Butterworth for arriving late. “He took me to one side and said, ‘You can’t be late, OK?’ I realised it couldn’t be all me, me, me, in the sense that I couldn’t just do as I pleased. Just being 10 minutes late had a huge impact on everyone. There was pressure, which I’d rarely felt before.” Anxiety, too. “But I tuned into it, and tried to feed off it.”
These scattershot roles continued until 2018, when Grint landed a part on Servant, the Apple TV+ show produced by M Night Shyamalan. The psychological thriller is about a young couple, Dorothy and Sean Turner (played by Lauren Ambrose and Toby Kebbell), whose dead infant son seemingly comes back to life. Grint plays Julian, Dorothy’s alcoholic younger brother, wild and unpredictable in his pursuit of protecting his family. Grint liked that Shyamalan made him audition – something he is rarely asked to do. “I feel like I got it on merit,” he says. “That was a good feeling. Even if my American accent was ropey.”
Servant, currently airing its fourth and final season, became the biggest constant in Grint’s life after Hogwarts. The show brought him professional stability, plus critical acclaim, which he hadn’t known since the Potter days. It kept him working through the uncertainty of the pandemic, and his daughter, Wednesday, was born while he was making it in May 2020.
Shyamalan first met Grint when he was briefly attached to directing the first Potter film. “Rupert’s such a sweet human, and I find him very curious, because there’s clearly darkness that he taps into when he works,” he tells me. “But he doesn’t let it escape like the rest of us do. He’s a bit of an enigma.”
Fans found Grint’s transformation enchanting. Who knew he was a twisted little freak all along? It helped him figure out his next move, building on his success in the horror-thriller space and starring in Shyamalan’s upcoming film Knock at the Cabin. Grint plays Redmond, an unhinged redneck who sincerely believes the world is about to end. He is broad, unshaven, gaunt, and physically shakes with distress. The effect is almost like witnessing Ron Weasley emerge from a decade inside one of the internet’s most noxious echo chambers.
“In Cabin, he pushed himself even further,” Shyamalan says. “He does some really dark stuff, and to do that, it has to be in him somewhere.”
“It can be cathartic watching terrible things happen to other people,” Grint says. He cites the dark alchemy of Guillermo del Toro and the psychological distress of Kubrick’s The Shining as inspirations. Twelve years ago, his tonsillectomy offered him a personal liberation, and there’s a sense that now, playing the darkest roles of his career, Grint is facing a professional one, too. A freedom from the franchise, and fandom, that defined his early life – even if there’s part of him that still finds it hard to let go.