Fogler happy to be back under spell of Fantastic Beasts
There may have been no person more excited for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald than Dan Fogler.
While Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston weaved their magic as lead Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Fogler's Jacob Kowalski was the audience's surrogate.
The 42-year-old, Brooklyn-born actor, who boasts a long list of voicing credits (Kung Fu Panda, Mars Needs Moms to name two) and an array of television and film credits, was the man responsible for expanding our world. A regular guy who just wanted a loan to open a bakery in 1926 New York, Kowalski was whipped into the magical world courtesy of Scamander's numerous fantastic beasts.
But the flabbergasted, clueless "no-maj" (that's a muggle for Harry Potter fans, a being with no magical ability) who plodded his way through the first story set in the wizarding world without Mr Potter to guide us, is gone as Fogler revisits a role for the first time in his two-decade on-screen career.
Kowalski's memory was erased at the end of Fantastic Beasts, but he is trying to get the gang back together as Johnny Depp's Grindelwald, who escaped custody in one of Fantastic Beasts' closing scenes, wreaks havoc in the much darker sequel as he enacts his plan to eradicate all non-magical beings.
"I've never been in a sequel before so it's really cool to be able to continue the growth of your character," Fogler said.
"As long as they shave me down, give me a moustache and put me in that suit I can find him pretty easy. The character is very close to me or like a close relative. I'm a New York born-and-bred guy. My family grew up on the lower east side of Brooklyn. It's in my blood, so playing this character is like stepping into a nice, familiar set of shoes.
"With the help of Queenie (Tina's sister, played by Alison Sudol, and Kowalski's love interest) he is a lot more put together I think. He's a little less schluppy, his hair is more put together, he's wearing nicer clothes. He's a little more successful in this one.
"He is helping the new character with a lot more confidence because he's been there in a lot of ways. The other thing that was fun to play is him not being so flabbergasted or in awe of the magic as he's used to it. It was fun to be more off the cuff with certain things."
In an effort to thwart Grindelwald, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers as the story leaves the United States for Europe.
Fogler has worked for decades, but 2016's Fantastic Beasts launched the award-winning writer and director (for 2014's Don Peyote) into a huge new world.
"Being able to come on set, I'd never been in a giant, movie franchise like this before," Fogler said. "This was the biggest ... so for example, Jude Law, who has been in all sorts of stuff, is looking around going 'holy crap, they built Paris!'. When you have someone who is a seasoned pro who is in as awe as you are, it puts everything in perspective.
"It was a total game-changer. This was a huge opportunity to play someone who was a complex, deep character who was close to my heart that I knew, if I did it right, I could knock it out of the park and show a side of myself that no one has ever seen before.
"There was a lot riding on it. I knew I had it in me to do a great job and create a character people love. There was a lot of pressure as you just want to do well for the fans, you want it to be good enough to make more, you want them to like your character.
"Going into this one was a lot less pressure and I had a blast stepping back into it."
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens on Thursday.
STARS: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Jude Law, Callum Turner.
DIRECTOR: David Yates
REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: Johnny Depp and Jude Law bring great screen presence to this expanding Harry Potter prequel series, which takes a decidedly dark turn.