IN CONVERSATION WITH WILL HARRISON
Interview by Jana Letonja
Will Harrison is having an incredible breakout year with three projects releasing both on screen and on stage. This March, we’ve been able to watch him in Amazon Prime’s ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’. Simultaneously, he made his New York stage debut as the lead in Lincoln Center Theatre’s off-Broadway production of ‘The Coast Starlight’. And then later this year, Will will be seen in Apple TV+ limited series ‘Manhunt’, a true crime, historical conspiracy thriller based on James Swanson’s thrilling novel ‘Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer’.
Will, just recently we’ve been able to watch you in Amazon Prime’s ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’, following a rock band in the 1970s from their rise in the LA music scene to becoming one of the most famous bands in the world and exploring the reason behind their split at the height of their success. Tell us more about your experience on this series.
Working on ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ was such an incredible experience for me. I was essentially paid to get better at playing the guitar and hang out with really cool people while doing it, which is just an insane job to have. It was really a dream project in so many ways.
In the series, you play Graham, a fan favorite, whose dream to form a band with his older brother ignites the spark that takes them from small town boys to the top of the charts. In what ways did you connect with Graham? How similar are the two of you?
Graham is certainly a character that I identify with. I went through a lot of auditions for other members of the band and was actually auditioning for Eddie when Riley Keough, who I didn’t know was off camera on the Zoom call, turned to our producers and told them that I had to read for Graham. So I have her to thank for putting me through one more round of auditions that got me to the right role. I’m glad she did, I couldn’t see myself playing anyone else on the series.
What valuable lessons for the future of your career have you learned from your co-stars on the set of ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’?
Working with this cast taught me so much. It goes without saying that they are all incredibly talented. But more importantly, we ended up with such a kind and fun group of people. This being my first project of this scale, I was learning so much as I went and they set grade A examples for me to follow every step of the way. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and encouraging cast.
At the same time the series premiered you also made your New York stage debut as the lead in Lincoln Center Theatre‘s off-Broadway production of ‘The Coast Starlight‘. What excites you about being on stage?
The thrill of a live performance is just a whole other animal. I hadn’t performed on a stage in a few years and knew that it was time to feel that again. To get back on stage with Keith’s play was the icing on the cake. The piece has so much heart and resonated with so many people. It was a joy to get to perform it every night. Theater also closes the gap between the audience and the performers. I loved meeting the audience after shows and seeing their reactions, and also being able to grab a drink post show with someone who had seen it and unpack the show right then and there.
‘The Coast Starlight‘ is a smart, funny and compassionate story about our capacity for invention and re-invention when life goes off the rails. Tell us more about the story of ‘The Coast Starlight’ and about your character.
I played a young man named TJ, who is struggling to decide whether he should desert his post as a combat medic in the Navy or return to his base and go back to Afghanistan. He boards a train headed away from his base, caught between his sense of duty and morality, and with each stop gets a little further from being able to make it back in time.
How different is it for you to embody and portray a character on TV and on stage?
There are certainly technical differences when approaching theater vs. film, but other than those aspects, I don’t make too many distinctions between the two. What I’ve learned so far is that if I stay rooted in creating the character, then that character will be able to exist in any space, whether that be filling a 300 seat theater or speaking into a mic with a camera a few inches away.
You booked both of those projects immediately upon gradiuating from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. How did that feel, booking such and so many different projects right away?
I just feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of them. Each has brought something new into my life and I’ve been able to work with so many people that I look up to. I really don’t take it for granted and am still pinching myself daily that I get to continue doing this work.
Later this year, we’ll be seeing you in Apple TV+ limited series ‘Manhunt‘, which is based on James Swanson‘s thrilling novel ‘Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln‘s Killer‘. This true crime, historical conspiracy thriller will take global audiences into the aftermath of the first American presidential assassination and the fight to preserve and protect the ideals that were the foundation of Lincoln‘s Reconstruction plans. What can you share with us about this upcoming limited series at this point?
‘Manhunt’ was a blast to work on. I think audiences will really enjoy the show and also learn so much from it. I think so many people have a rough, storybook idea of the Lincoln assassination, but this show really delves into the full story. I’m laughing to myself because I didn’t even know the character that I play existed before reading Swanson’s book.And he was an instrumental part of the multiple assassination attempts that took place that night. I learned so much new information being involved in the project and the fact that audiences will have an opportunity to learn it as well really excites me.
When you think about the future of your career, what would you say are your biggest goals and dreams you want to achieve?
My goals are to continue working with passionate people, to help bring their stories to life. I have been lucky to work with such incredible artists so far and if I can hold on to even fifty percent of that luck moving forward, I’ll be happy.
Will, when you’re not on the set or on stage, how are you spending your free time? What are some of your other passions and hobbies, besides acting?
The curse of free time as an actor is a lot of it is spent thinking about when you’re going to get to act again. Outside of that, I am really passionate about music right now and have been having so much fun creating in a medium where the results are a bit more tangible than acting can sometimes offer.
photography STEPHANIE DIANI
styling CHLOE HARTSTEIN
grooming CAROLINA DALI