When discussing his new heaven-as-a-workplace comedy for TBS, Miracle Workers star Daniel Radcliffe seems to dance around a very specific quote from recent pop culture history.
“I suppose it does seem to me as much a story of rediscovering why life is worth living and worth saving despite the fact that none of us, you know, no one asks to be born. But despite all of that, despite how crazy the world is, you would still rather have existed than not,” Radcliffe says.
I tell Radcliffe that that sounds like that one kind of famous quote from Rick and Morty that I can never remember in full. Radcliffe, however, does.
“Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, and everybody’s going to die. Come watch TV,” Radcliffe says, reciting perfectly Morty Smith’s atypical pep talk to his sister in “Rixty Minutes.”
Yes, Daniel Radcliffe loves Rick and Morty. Because how could he not? Here’s a link with an album of him wearing a Rick and Morty shirt with that exact quote on it (courtesy: Reddit user u/thewarehouse).
After spending most of his young life playing a character with a very unique relationship to death in Harry Potter a.k.a. The Boy Who Lived a.k.a. Master of Death a.k.a. Uniter of the Deathly Hallows, Radcliffe is interested in art with a much different relationship to mortality, like the aforementioned Rick and Morty. Being able to participate in that art, is just a bonus. Now, in Miracle Workers creator Simon Rich, Radcliffe has found a creative partner concerned with similarly existential questions.
“For me, the goal was to start from a place of abject nihilism and cynical defeatism and see if we could start there and end up with something that was life-affirming and kind,” Simon Rich says of his TV creation based on his book What in God’s Name. “It’s a show that says almost nothing happens for a reason, but maybe a couple things do.”
Rich is one of the country’s most prominent humor writers, having written two novels, worked for Saturday Night Live, and contributed to magazines like McSweeney’s, GQ, and The New Yorker.
Rich turned his first novel, The Last Girlfriend on Earth, into the absurdist half-hour Man Seeking Woman for FXX. Now he’s brought his second novel to TBS in the form of Miracle Workers. Miracle Workers is designed to be a sort of heavenly anthology series. In the first season (which debuted on February 12), God (Steve Buscemi, naturally) is the CEO of Heaven Inc. and decides that Earth is beyond his help and he will destroy it in favor of his next gig, a lazy river restaurant concept called Lazy Susan’s. Two employees of the Department of Answered Prayers, Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Craig (Radcliffe), make a deal with God that if they’re able to get two shy individuals on Earth to fall in love, Earth will be spared.
As a half hour comedy, Miracle Workers’ tone is light and breezy (God can’t read, by the way) but the moral and philosophical implications of a creator bored with his creation are pretty heavy. The whole concept lends itself to something that Radcliffe calls “cheerful pessimism.”
“When something that you feel deeply is genuinely being communicated through this show, it’s just a really exciting thing. That kind of cheerful pessimism is, I think, very much how I see the world as well,” he says.
If Miracle Workers is cheerfully pessimistic, the emphasis is certainly on the cheerful. Heaven Inc. is made up of departments for…well, everything as in: Department of Dirt, Department of Genitals, etc. If Radcliffe, Rich, Viswanathan, and actor Karan Soni were given a Department to head, what would it be?
Radcliffe: Department of Wolves. Fucking love wolves. I would, I feel like they do a lot of the work for themselves, I wouldn’t really have to run them. It would mainly just be about making sure genetics keep getting passed down and then sort of the pack just runs itself.
Rich: I’ll go with Sunset Design. Every day you can kind of see how many eyeballs you get. Yeah, what are the ratings? Oh, we got five people tiled their heads. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good for a Wednesday.
Viswanathan: I would do Department of Horses. I would love to just think about horses all day and design horses.
Soni: I would just do just dogs then. But is there a department with just medium to large sized dogs? I don’t want to do the small ones.
Radcliffe has largely traded in his hero days in favor of becoming one of pop culture’s most delightfully strange performers and role-selectors. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything heroic to be found in the lives of these heavenly corporate drones and button pushers.
“When we were talking early on, we talked about the respect and the esteem we hold people in who do get up every morning and say I’m going to change the world,” Radcliffe says. “For me, part of my brain goes’ that ship has probably sailed, right?’ All we can do is make each other’s lives better along the way as much as we can.”