Josh Radnor Interview: Jews Kicking Ass
Image attributed to Josh Radnor
Josh Radnor is best known for playing Ted Mosby on the Emmy Award-winning CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Other television appearances include Law & Order, ER, Judging Amy, Mercy Street and Grey’s Anatomy. He has a recurring role in the drama series Fleishman Is in Trouble, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Lizzy Caplan, which premiered on FX on November 17, 2022.
Radnor can also currently be seen in Prime Video's Hunters, portraying Lonny Flash, an actor and master of disguises. The series follows a diverse band of Nazi hunters living in 1977 New York City who are fighting a war against Nazi officers attempting to create the Fourth Reich. The show also stars Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Lena Olin and Carol Kane. The second and final season of Hunters premieres on Prime Video on January 13, 2023.
"He’s nothing like Ted Mosby. I don’t think I was brought in to be the comic relief. I think the character just says some outrageous things that are funny."
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Josh, since this is the second and final season of Hunters, how do you feel about the show ending?
Josh Radnor: Well, you’re always conflicted when you’ve got something this fun, a character that’s great, a premise that’s this provocative and a cast that is this fun to be with. It’s always bittersweet to say goodbye. You get excited about what may be ahead also. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know how to honor something and mourn it and then just move on and be thankful for the time you’ve had with these people.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: We found out at the end of season one that Hitler and his wife are actually alive and living in South America. Catch us up from there.
Josh Radnor: There’s this two-year gap between the first season and the second season. The first season takes place in ’77, and the next season takes place in 1979. There’s this disastrous trip to Europe that the hunters take, and some things go very poorly, all of which you just hear about. Then we’re all in different places scattered around the world and doing different things, and the gang gets reunited for various reasons and for this enormous reason to go to South America and catch the biggest of them all. So, yeah. There was this kind of fragmented quality, and then we all get scooped up again for one last adventure.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Your character, Lonny, said that he’s changed and gotten even more amazing.
Josh Radnor: I forgot he said that (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is Lonny the comedy relief? I don’t want to say he's like Ted Mosby (laughs).
Josh Radnor: I think so, yeah. He’s nothing like Ted Mosby. I don’t think I was brought in to be the comic relief. I think the character just says some outrageous things that are funny. I’d say Lonny’s trying to be funny 30% of the time, and 70% of the time, he’s not even trying to be funny. But I don’t like to delineate like, “Oh, this is the comedy person. This is the serious person.” I think that a good character has comedy, drama, tragedy, triumph. I want them to feel complicated and dimensional, so I never thought of myself really as the comedic relief. But certainly, when you watch the show, I get some really good zingers.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You do, indeed. The opera singing was hysterical.
Josh Radnor: Yeah. Pretty funny (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I also love the 70s outfits. Notice that I didn’t say costumes because I actually wore these clothes in the 70s (laughs). Is there anything that has changed this season as far as wardrobe or physical appearance?
Josh Radnor: In the first season, Lonny wore a lot of wild print shirts, tight polyester pants, boots and leather jackets. He had more of a Travis Bickle Taxi Driver vibe going on. In the second season, his career’s taking off more. He’s got an Oscar buzzy movie about to be out. I think he ups his game from a style perspective. There’s suits and cravats and just some more expensive stuff. I think he’s peacocking a bit maybe for Roxy, but he’s really upped his fashion game in season two, I think.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are there scenes or stunts in season two that might stand out as more fun to shoot than others?
Josh Radnor: There’s that big scene in the steam room. There’s a huge fight between Georges and Lonny in the steam room. That was actually quite fun to shoot. There’s the fight at the opera, which was also really fun. The opera scene was during the early days of shooting. But I love that whole sequence. I think it’s like a James Bond kind of sequence at the opera. I’m trying to think. You know, we had some big shootouts when we were in Prague. We had some big shootouts on this ranch. It’s fun. My dad was a trial lawyer. He didn’t get to fake shoot people in his job (laughs). But I’ve gotten to do it in my job, so I’m really grateful for that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: There’s a new Hitler this season, Udo Kier, who’s quite the storied actor. Had you worked with him before?
Josh Radnor: No, I hadn’t. But I got to really talk to him quite a bit when we were in Prague and a little bit in LA. He has stories for days. It’s quite the biography and quite a chilling performance, honestly. I think he’s excellent, and the makeup they did on him was excellent. The first time I saw him, it was terrifying.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Meyer Offerman, played by Al Pacino, was killed in season one, but he returns for season two in flashbacks. How does that drive the story?
Josh Radnor: A lot of Hunters is structured as a mystery. David (Weil) is really sharp about giving enough information but enough left out that you want to know more. He’s really a master storyteller in that regard. So I think there were a lot of questions left over. How did this happen? How did he assemble these hunters? Why? So you actually get to see him assemble the posse. You have these flashbacks of him coming to a movie set of Lonny’s when he’s not in a good headspace (laughs). You see how it all came about.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is Hunters even loosely based on true events?
Josh Radnor: I’m not sure if there were rogue Nazi hunter gangs. There might have been. The Judd Hirsch character that’s in both seasons was this very famous Nazi hunter. Surely, they discovered these Nazis living in Long Island or whatever. So there were clearly people, federal agents and different people like Jerrika’s character, who were assigned to that beat and who really tried to find these people, extradite them and bring them to justice. So I think there’s probably a secret history to be told that’s more than what we know. But I also think we’re telling a pretty fictional story at the same time.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Because of your Jewish upbringing, were you apprehensive at first to jump on board this series that has an odd premise, to say the least?
Josh Radnor: I was excited. David and I both loved the idea of tough Jews, like letting Jews kick some ass. I really liked it, and I had no qualms about it. I remember when I got the part. I was just thrilled, and I wanted to join this team. As far as odd premise, what isn’t?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: True. What does this new member of the team, Chava Apfelbaum, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, bring to the Nazi hunters’ table?
Josh Radnor: Well, there’s a bit of mystery about who she is, where she came from and why she’s doing what she’s doing. But she’s a bit of a Nazi hunting mastermind and very good at her job. Also, being an actor, when you’ve been at it for a while, one of the thrills is you just get to work with these people you’ve admired for so long. I mean, I’ve always loved Jennifer’s work and got to spend a couple of months with her getting to know her. She’s an incredible actor but also just a great on-set hang. I really enjoyed getting to know her. I think she had fun.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Who’s the funny one on set with perhaps some practical jokes?
Josh Radnor: I think the practical joke on set thing has been overstated. I’m not on a lot of sets with practical jokes (laughs). I think it’s more like you’re just hanging out with people that you love and your co-workers, and you talk about things, and you wonder when lunch is because you’re hungry. You ask Carol Kane a question about Princess Bride. I mean, you fall into certain roles. But there weren’t a lot of practical jokes on set.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I imagine the legendary Al Pacino …
Josh Radnor: Knows a lot of practical jokes (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: (laughs)
Josh Radnor: Most of it is like when you act with Al Pacino, you see how much he loves acting and how he’s relentless about finding the truth in a scene, making sure that it makes sense psychologically. He’s not afraid of failure. He’ll try many different things, some of which he knows maybe won’t work, but he’s just going to try. He’s kind of a hunter for the good moment of an actor, and he’s also really supportive. He felt like he was really invested in the show, invested in us.
You’ll have to ask him about this, but I think he liked the feeling of being with a group of actors that felt like a theater ensemble. I love those experiences when you feel like you’re all doing a play, and it just happens to be a film beamed out into the world, you know. But I learned a lot from Al Pacino, and he tells the best stories, too.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What would you say to viewers who are undecided whether or not to watch both seasons of Hunters?
Josh Radnor: I’d say that the show is thrilling. It’s dark. It’s funny. It’s outrageous. It’s a mystery. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s scary and sadly, it feels even more relevant, this notion of anti-Semitism and genocide, and these horrors which we hoped had been relegated to the 21st century. They’re mutating viruses, and they seem to be rearing their ugly heads again across all sorts of racism and ideologies and stuff. So I think the show feels more relevant even that it did when the first season came out.
Hunters certainly has a lot of pleasures to be had just as an action show, but it’s also really about something that is of the moment and historically tragic, and hopefully, we can move the needle in some positive direction.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Josh, in the final few minutes, I’d like to talk about Fleishman Is in Trouble where you are recurring as Adam who is married to Libby (played by Lizzy Caplan).
Josh Radnor: Sure. It’s based on a wonderful bestselling book by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and she adopted the book and was the showrunner. So she was around and became a really good friend. I’ve known Lizzy for a lot of years, but we’d never worked together, so that was a real thrill. We had so much fun.
It’s a show about people at mid-life or in their 40s, who are married and have kids and have some resources who also feel some doors closing on them and are sad. The youthful glow has worn off, and they’re having to look at the next chapter of their lives and wrestle with what is meaningful. What do they want? What is meaningful? To whom do we owe anything? It’s a really deep, wonderful story. I’m really proud to be a part of that show. I love it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Could that be art imitating life for you?
Josh Radnor: I’m right around those ages. I don’t have any kids. But I understand that moment, part of the joy of youth but the horror of youth, and you have all these options available to you. Sometimes, options can be overwhelming and kind of crush us, but when you get to be in your 40s, I found, it feels like certain doors just get slammed, and you feel that you’re not going to do this or that or you might not travel there. There’s some sadness in letting go. You have these tiny little funerals for the lives that you’re not going to live. But then there’s an opportunity, and I think the show explores this like, “What if this was my life, and what if this was an okay life? What if I could enjoy this life that I’m living and find some peace?”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are you working on new music?
Josh Radnor: Yeah. I recorded a double album of all original songs in Nashville with some friends. I’m just figuring out how to release that. It’ll be out this year. I’ve also got some live shows coming up, too. So yeah. I’m really excited about that. I’m always writing music.
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