Oscar-nominated actor Richard E. Grant says he was attracted to his new role on AMC’s “Dispatches from Elsewhere” because he didn’t understand it.
“After you’ve been around as long as I have, as much as it’s possible, I try and find something I haven’t been asked to do 100 times before,” Grant, 62, tells The Post.
So when creator Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother”) pitched Grant on “Elsewhere,” the veteran Swazi-English actor was intrigued.
“When I met Jason Segel for a breakfast meeting at the Four Seasons hotel in the run-up to the Oscars last year at this time, he outlined what the story was essentially going to be,” he says. “That I was playing this puppet master of a kind of cult trying to control people’s lives via different media forms. I found it unusual. It didn’t sound like predictable television, and so I jumped onboard.”
Premiering Sunday at 10 p.m., the quirky drama follows four characters from different walks of life — lonely office drone Peter (Segel); Janice (Sally Field), who feels lost after her husband gets ill; trans woman Simone (Eve Lindley); and brilliant, obsessive Fredwynn (Andre Benjamin) — as they become ensnared in a mysterious adventure around Philadelphia. Janice thinks it’s a game, Simone thinks it’s an ad campaign and Fredwynn thinks it’s the government performing a social experiment on them. Its true purpose is a mystery that unfolds over the course of the show, and the whole thing is orchestrated by the debonair Octavio (Grant), who also serves as the narrator.
Grant, who’s also known for “The Age of Innocence,” “The Iron Lady,” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” says his performance as Octavio was inspired by Scientology leader David Miscavige.
“That absolute iron-clad self-belief,” he says. “I have no religious belief or conviction, so I was interested to see what kind of person had to charismatically pull people in to make them follow him. And what they all had in common was this unflinching self-belief, and unblinkingly direct eye contact. So that’s really what I went for.”
Although Grant has no religious devotion, during the lead-up to the 2019 Oscars — when he had a Best Supporting Actor nod for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” — he became famous for his social media posts chronicling his devotion to Barbra Streisand.
Since then, he’s met her several times — including one two-hour conversation while he was filming “Dispatches from Elsewhere.”
“I met her multiple times at the Oscars and subsequently she gave me tickets to her Hyde Park concert in London and to Madison Square Garden,” he says. “And then I had an amazing two-hour face-to-face conversation with her on my own at Donna Karan’s house in East Hampton last summer, while I was filming ‘Dispatches from Elsewhere.’
“It was completely beyond anything I could have wished or hoped for. It was absolutely amazing. Thrilling.”
He even got his co-star Sally Field to attend a Streisand concert with him during filming.
“I had followed [Field’s] career and read her extraordinary autobiography, so she was a person that I got to know the best and got closest to on the set,” he says. “We had lots of meals together and socialized like that, and she came with me to see Streisand at Madison Square Garden. We’re not that far apart in age — so we were the ‘senior’ [cast] members.”
“I am amazed at the age that I am, I’m still working as much as I do,” he says. “Long may it continue.”