Mads Mikkelsen Talks “Secrets of Dumbledore,” Grindelwald’s Backstory, and How to Play the Villain

We don’t know about you, but we think Mads Mikkelsen did a pretty great job as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. While his portrayal of the character seems absolutely effortless on-screen, he shared some of what went on behind the scenes during the making of the film: From hastily needing to step in as Grindelwald to figuring out the character’s backstory on his own, it’s been a wild ride for Mikkelsen.

In a recent interview, Mikkelsen revealed that he had two days to decide whether or not he would take on the role of Grindelwald. He watched the previous Fantastic Beasts films and read over the script for Secrets of Dumbledore and fell in love with the story. Once he accepted the part, he set out to make the role his own while also attempting to make the transition from Johnny Depp’s version of Grindelwald to his own as seamless as possible. Director David Yates was in favor of Mikkelsen bringing his own version of the character to the film.

I wanted Mads to explore a version of Grindelwald that suited his strengths as an actor — and that inevitably meant a departure from what Johnny brought to the role.

In order to portray a character truthfully, you have to understand their backstory. Mikkelsen spent some time figuring out why Grindelwald is who he is and what caused him to become someone who has so much hate in his heart for Muggles. He came up with a pretty interesting theory.

My reason is that something happened to his entire family when he was a child that explains the hate he carries around.

If there’s one thing Mikkelsen is good at, it’s creating intriguing characters that keep you invested in what’s happening on-screen. While it might seem like magic, Mikkelsen has a specific technique he likes to apply when portraying villains.

Often when it comes to the villain, I think that the more we can persuade the audience to listen and make a fraction of what the character is saying make sense, the more interesting the character is to look at.

Grindelwald is indeed interesting to look at. From the very first scene, Mikkelsen draws you in. The opening scene in the film also happens to be one of his favorites, simply because it gives viewers a glimpse of what Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s relationship used to be like.

It puts aside that they’re wizards, and it’s just two grown-up people with a painful and beautiful past. Their past obviously meant the world to them, but was also full of disappointment. We wanted to establish that warmth before we went into the dilemma of the scene.

As with the previous Fantastic Beasts films, we’re curious to know whether there will be a fourth installment. Mikkelsen thinks there’s definitely room for one.

Obviously, I [Grindelwald] still have the Elder Wand. Dumbledore gets it in … 1945? There’s an epic confrontation that we haven’t seen yet. So there is room for more.

Mikkelsen also seems to have grown fond of Grindelwald, admitting that he hopes there will be another film in which he can continue to explore the character. We’d love for that to happen – and hopefully get more glimpses of Grindelwald’s relationship with Dumbledore.

Have you seen Secrets of Dumbledore yet? How would you describe it in one word? Let us know in the comments.


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Marica Laing

Growing up, I was a massive fan of Harry Potter and my love for the stories grew as I got older. It’s no surprise then that I love writing about all things Potter related. When I’m not writing about all the magic, you’ll find me reading (probably something Harry Potter related), listening to music, or writing some songs.