updated 09/25/2008 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 09/25/2008 AT 12:35 PM ET
Daniel Radcliffe is gearing up for his official Broadway debut Thursday night in Equus at the Broadhurst Theater – and says being onstage is tough work.
“There’s a lot of sweat on me by the end [of the show],” Radcliffe, 19, tells USA Today. “I’m a physically repellent thing. At least it’s good exercise. I don’t have to go to the gym.”
Another perk for the Harry Potter star, who began his Equus preview performances Sept. 5: His new schedule – including rehearsals and mostly evening performances – allows him “to lie in bed much later than I do in London, which is great.”
He plays Alan Strang, a horse-obsessed teen undergoing therapy after committing a brutal crime.
Though Radcliffe didn’t have any professional stage experience before performing taking on the stage drama in London last year, the show’s director, Thea Sharrock, tells PEOPLE that the young actor is “incredibly grown-up for his age and very courageous, which are elements that great actors have to have. He has already proved by this tender age that he absolutely has that.”
She’s referring, in part, to the well-chronicled nude scene Radcliffe has in the show, which he downplayed to USA Today, saying, “I’m only naked for about seven minutes in a show that runs about 2¼ hours.”
“We handled that very carefully,” Sharrock adds. “There are two people who have to do that, and I was very protective of them both, and it passed without a problem.”
Crazy Fan Reaction
Fans certainly have seemed to embrace Radcliffe’s new career move, and have been lining up outside the theater to catch a (clothed) glimpse of him.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Sharrock says. “Dan’s had so much experience with that kind of level of publicity and attention that it’s extraordinary to watch how calm and relaxed he is dealing with that side of who he is at the moment.”
Radcliffe says the attention only helps his performance.
“I hope to play as many characters as I can,” he said. “I’ll keep coming back to the stage and film for as long as they’ll have me.”
For more on Radcliffe’s Broadway bow – and how he’s spending his time in the Big Apple – pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands now