If you saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over the weekend, you may or may not recognize Dan Fogler. The 40-year-old actor portrays the American muggle Jacob Kowalski in the latest J.K. Rowling movie adaptation, but has lent his talents to nearly 40 movies and television series since 2000. Add to this two New York VisionFest awards and you have an emerging talent who will be widely recognized for years to come.
There are two standout roles for Fogler when sifting through his 16-year catalog. One is the van-driving, Rush-loving, Star Wars fanatic, Hutch, in Fanboys. The other is Randy Daytona, former professional Ping-Pong player in Balls of Fury. His penchant for comedies is apparent, but does not define his acting abilities. He has landed many roles in serious television dramas like The Good Wife and Hannibal, and voiced characters in the animated movies Kung-Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who.
Before his big-screen fame, Fogler made his big break in the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, in which he earned a Tony Award at the age of 29. As for non-acting achievements, he has written and directed two movies, a play and a television series.
For his latest role, the Brooklyn-born actor portrays New Yorker Jacob Kowalski, one of the few non-magical characters in the movie. However, the role appealed to him in a way that the other magical characters couldn’t. In an L.A. Times article, Fogler stated that his favorite roles were the ones he considered “sad clown parts.”
“Those are the ones I love because you get to do everything. You get to be funny, make them laugh one minute and make them cry the next minute.”
For a movie set in the early 20th century, Fogler molded Kowalski’s portrayal from other movie stars of the era, including Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and James Cagney. Additional input came from Rowling, herself, who wrote the screenplay, along with its source material. With an understanding of how the characters evolve over time, Fogler and other actors would get little hints from Rowling, establishing motivation and insight for his character.
“I love what you’re doing. Keep doing what you’re doing,” the legendary author told him during rehearsals. She even compared Jacob to Ron Weasley, whose character dynamics make him a slacker, hero, clown and love interest all wrapped into one character.
Fogler is on his way to becoming a familiar face in Hollywood. He continues his role in ABC’s comedy The Goldbergs and is currently filming Making the Day, just one of his three films to be released in 2017.