New Orleans native Kelvin Harrison Jr. is one of the industry’s hardest working newcomers, having had roles in such hits as 12 Years a Slave, Birth of a Nation, Enders Game, and TV shows such as Crackle’s StartUp, FOX’s Shots Fired, WGN’s Underground, and the recent reboot of Roots to name a few. He took the time to chat with us about his love for acting, what Viola Davis told him about the craft, what genre’s of acting he finds himself gravitated towards, and much more!
CONTRAST: You seem like someone who legitimately enjoys the craft of acting, someone who really loves it. You don’t always see that much real love for it. Talk to me a little about your love for the craft of acting.
KELVIN HARRISON JR: My first job was as an extra on Enders Game that got upgraded and because of the way that Enders Game worked I was there for the full 4-5 months. I got to be with Harrison Ford and Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley and that was an opportunity to actually talk to these amazing actors, and Viola told me it’s about the craft. It’s not about the fame and the yada, yada, yada. It’s about understating that you’re telling a story and a truth. It’s also about being interested in humans and life. It’s just constantly exploring, and all of that makes me constantly excited.
CONTRAST: What genre do you see yourself being gravitated towards in acting?
KELVIN: That’s interesting because I’m going on all of these meetings and they ask me, “what do see yourself doing? What are you interested in?” And I’m always like, “everything!” I guess I was just always like drama, drama, drama, because thats where I connect the most. I don’t necessarily think I’m funny. People say I’m funny though, so I’ll take it! It truly is about the story, though. If there’s a story and it makes sense to me, I connect to, that I relate to in that moment of my life, I’ll do it. So, it can be an action film, it can be a horror film, it can be a thriller, it can be a period piece, I just have to connect, you know?
CONTRAST: What is the most challenging thing for you about bringing a character to life? When you get that script, what is it that makes you go, “Okay, this is going to be the tough part for me.”
KELVIN: Usually, for me now, it has to do with where I am in my life at that time. Finding those similarities within the differences in the character help me understand better who they are. It’s hard sometimes, but you get there!
CONTRAST: Who are some actors or actresses that you look up to and go, “I want to be that kind of actor.”
KELVIN: I LOVE Tilda Swinton. She’s just constantly shifting and doesn’t like to put herself in a box. She’s not stuck in one genre. When she did Trainwreck (with Amy Schumer) I was like…. huh? She just goes for it, she just does it.
CONTRAST: Of all the roles you’ve had thus far, which one still stands out to you as a favorite?
KELVIN: It’s a combination of experiences. 12 Years a Slave was my first job and I could truly feel the energy everywhere. You just felt like you were doing something special. Birth Of A Nation had a similar feeling to it. I feel like I got to know myself best during that time. Just walking on set and feeling the gratitude of being able to make a movie like that, it’s just so empowering. They’re all different experiences and you learn so much and you give so much.
CONTRAST: Outside of acting, what is something that the average person might not know that you like to do or really love?
KELVIN: (Laughs) I don’t know why, but I’ve watched Charmed like three times. I really an old man!
CONTRAST: Where do you want to go as an actor? What are your ultimate goals in this industry?
KELVIN: Right now I’m in a place where it’s a moment to moment thing. Everything happens so quickly. I don’t try to look at the future too much. It’s just continuing to challenge myself to do different things and learning who I am. I like to write, and I have this idea and I have this script that I’m thinking about writing.
CONTRAST: Do you ever see yourself writing, producing or directing a movie?
KELVIN: Absolutely. I want to do it when it’s the right time, and when I’m ready. I’m constantly writing. Eventually I’ll get to do that one of these days, hopefully!
Special thanks to Kelvin for taking the time to chat with us!