Rupert Grint Finally Found His Post-Potter Niche: M. Night Shyamalan Star

·8 min read
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Universal Pictures and Apple TV+
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Universal Pictures and Apple TV+

I can’t imagine being a successful actor. Okay, a lot of that comes from the fact that I cannot, in fact, act, but the idea of being a celebrity fills me with dread. I’m one of those people that would prefer my fortune without fame, thank you very much.

It must be an especially daunting career if you start as a child—doubly so if your first film becomes a bigger sensation than you could have ever imagined. That’s exactly what happened to Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, who kicked off their careers with Harry Potter in the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001. It was a film that changed their lives forever and catapulted them to levels of fame they couldn’t have dreamt up.

Radcliffe and Watson have gone on to become bonafide superstars. Radcliffe is now known as a movie star who makes bold choices, starring in films like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story and Swiss Army Man. And Watson has starred in films like Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed Little Women and Disney’s blockbuster Beauty and the Beast remake, while also serving as a Women Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations.

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Meanwhile, Grint hasn’t had a proper leading role since 2015’s Moonwalkers, a film you have almost certainly never heard of until now.

That doesn’t mean Grint has given up acting. Instead, Grint took a bit of a step back from his career after the Harry Potter saga wrapped in 2011. Grint has since said he found his Harry Potter experience “quite suffocating,” as he told Bustle in a recent interview. “It was an out-of-body experience for a while, but I think we finished [the film series] at the right time. If we continued, it could’ve gone downhill.”

But now, Rupert Grint is in officially in the second phase of his career, and his mature work is absolutely stunning to witness. And he’s got a particular collaborator who’s helping him get the best work of his career: M. Night Shyamalan.

Grint has vital supporting roles in Shyamalan’s latest thriller, Knock at the Cabin, and Servant, the Apple TV+ series Shyamalan produces. While the millions who showed up to see Knock at the Cabin may be shocked by Grint’s fiery performance, those of us who have watched Servant over the course of four seasons aren’t. But now, it’s time for the rest of the world to see that Grint has found his post-Potter groove.

(Spoilers for Knock at the Cabin and Servant ahead!)

  <div class="inline-image__credit">Universal Pictures</div>
Universal Pictures

Knock at the Cabin finds Grint in his first feature film role in eight years. Here, he’s playing a man tasked with a considerable challenge: along with three others, he must convince a family staying in a cabin to sacrifice one of their own to save all of humanity. Unsurprisingly, the couple is unwilling to let the strangers inside, so the group has to force its way in.

We’re so used to seeing home-invasion thrillers featuring bone-chilling individuals, who want nothing more than to pillage and torture. What makes Grint’s character in Knock at the Cabin so interesting is that he’s a home invader that would rather be doing anything but. In fact, nobody invading the cabin wants to be there—but they must, or, as far as they’re concerned, the world will literally come to an end.

Grint plays Redmond, one of the four intruders. He’s the quickest to anger out of the group and wants to get to the point as quickly as possible, while his partners take their time to coax their captives to their side. But even when he furiously smashes through the glass door to initiate the break-in, Redmond’s eyes seem fearful.

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That fear is realized in two stunning ways, which show Grint flexing his range. A crucial element of Knock at the Cabin is that the main characters, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are gay. As they’re the ones subject to the invasion, Andrew is convinced that they’re victims of a targeted hate crime. The group rushes to assure Andrew that this isn’t the case, with each of the four invaders stating that it’s nothing but a coincidence. But when Redmond remarks in his surprise that the couple in the cabin are gay, you get the sense that he’s telling the truth—but that perhaps Redmond is also hiding something.

He is, of course: Later in the film, it’s revealed that Redmond assaulted Andrew at a bar in Boston, which was entirely unprovoked and motivated by homophobia. It’s a surprising reveal, but what’s impressive here is how much Grint is able to convey about Redmond’s complicity with a few simple words. It takes real talent to load something as innocuous as saying you had no idea with a lifetime of meaning, but Grint makes the most of every one of Redmond’s lines, weaving a complicated backstory that is somewhat illuminated but largely left to mystery.

Before long, however, Grint exits the movie entirely. Redmond is the first character to be sacrificed in Knock at the Cabin. Each time the family refuses the group’s plea, one of the foursome must die in the family’s place. There’s a clear unease that Redmond carries with him before this moment, and we immediately understand that this nervous energy comes from a desperation to know his own fate.

In one of the film’s most haunting moments, Redmond is horrified that he is destined to die. He begins to shake uncontrollably, and tears roll down his face with purpose. It’s impossible to not feel for Redmond in this moment; though we don’t know much about him, Grint’s performance is so full of pathos that you can easily imagine yourself in his shoes. As he places the white mask over his face, he whimpers a final plea, all the bravado he once had now a distant memory.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Apple TV+</div>
Apple TV+

In the Shyamalan-produced Servant. Grint plays another character with incredibly tricky circumstances. This show follows Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell), who live in a gorgeous home in a Philadelphia suburb. They’ve just hired a nanny, Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), to take care of their baby, Jericho. There’s just one thing: Their baby is no longer alive. Dorothy is in complete denial, so Leanne is hired to take care of the baby doll standing in for Jericho. But Sean is astonished to discover that somehow, their baby has actually come back to life.

It gives me the chills just writing that premise alone, and Servant is a masterclass in sustained dread. Sean has no choice but to keep up the charade, and Dorothy’s brother Julian (Grint) has to help keep up the charade, pretending this baby is indeed Jericho.

When we first meet Julian, he’s largely used as comic relief. He’s Dorothy’s snarky younger brother, who dresses rich and acts richer, enjoying dropping facts like his car having an auto-parking feature. His quick wit and frequent sarcasm provide a welcome break from the unbearable tension of the Turner family’s circumstances.

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It’s thrilling to see Grint shine in the role, and as the show has gone on (its fourth and final season is currently releasing weekly), the layers have slowly peeled back on Julian. Underneath all of Julian’s snark lies a tremendous amount of self-loathing and resentment, particularly regarding his role in Jericho’s death. Julian holds himself responsible, which has led to a serious drug problem, as well as a steadfast commitment to keep Dorothy from the truth about her child.

In one devastating scene, Jericho has gone missing, and Julian frantically searches through the house to find him. Out of desperation, he smashes pots and pans together, screaming for the baby, hoping to draw a reaction. There’s such anguish and desperation in his voice as Julian approaches a breakdown—if he can’t find the baby, he’s all but destined to succumb to his addiction. It’s horrifying to hear him shout for Jericho, and there’s a lifetime of anguish coming from his full-throated display. It’s astonishing work.

In Season 4, Julian enters into a relationship with Leanne, much to Dorothy’s horror. He still has quips to spare, but Julian feels more like a ticking time bomb than ever as he tries to keep everything intact—it’s clear he’s being pushed to his limits, and it's incredible to watch. In a show with show-stopping performances from everyone, Grint proves he’s up to the challenge. Forget Ron—this may just be the role of his lifetime.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Jessica Kourkounis/Apple TV+</div>
Jessica Kourkounis/Apple TV+

Sometimes it just takes a bit of time to get cooking, and Grint has finally begun cooking with fire. His work is incredible, and he’s slowly turning into one of the most impressive supporting actors His incredible evolution from goofy sidekick to horrifyingly haunted supporting turns is an impressive achievement. Shyamalan has unlocked the very best of Grint’s abilities, ones Potter fans never would have expected he’d have. Hopefully, this pairing will continue to grow into one of Hollywood’s premier director-actor partnerships.

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