Kelvin Harrison Jr. spoke with Solzy at the Movies about starring in Cyrano, prepping for the role, and writing poetry during the pandemic.
Harrison stars alongside Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, and Ben Mendelsohn. Following December’s Oscar-qualifying run, Cyrano finally opens in wide release this weekend.
What was it about the script that attracted you to the role?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: It was the relationship between Christian and Cyrano for me. I looked it up prior to but I also read the original play. I felt like this particular adaptation felt more true to the relationship that I feel like a lot of people have when you’re with your friends and you’re not sure and you’re insecure about who you are or what you have to offer to somebody that you’re romantically interested in and you confide in your buddy. You confide in those close people and you kind of share these intimate insecurities and to help each other grow together. I love that dynamic between Christian and Cyrano even though Cyrano’s got his own agenda I thought it was beautiful.
Joe Wright had mentioned during the press conference this morning about watching Being There.
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: Yes.
What did you take away from watching that film and how did that impact your performance?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: (Laughs) I think I love the matter of factness of it all and the sincerity in every moment and really leaning into every word and what does a word mean and its meaning? You could look up the definition just being like, that’s what it is. There’s no other thing to kind of put around it. Sometimes, it’s so easy for us to build narratives around a sentence and always look for the subtext. Sometimes, we create our own subtext around something and then suddenly try to respond to the subtext that we created in our heads. That’s just not real. I think what was so beautiful about Being There is that whatever you said, whatever it was, that’s what it meant. It was simple as that. He’s a simple man, not someone who’s not that smart or we say tongue-tied. But just a simple man trusting and I got that. Being There was great and it was funny.
Were you familiar with the stage play or musical before you signed on?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: No, it was the first time I heard about it. My agent sent me that stage play. I read that and I was like, it took me a long time because the language is dense. I was like, I don’t really know what I read (laughs) but sounds good.
What do you typically look for in a character when you’re reading a screenplay?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: Just something different—something that kind of sparks a train of thought that I didn’t really think about before. Once again, with Christian, it was more this is the sincerity of innocence and trusting people. I feel like I personally walk through life and I’m always trying to figure something out before I get there. I just love the idea of just kind of being like, Hey, wait, it is what it is. I’ll take that, and I believe in and I love that. I thought it was beautiful.
You had mentioned writing poetry during the pandemic. Can we one day see a musical based on your work?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: (Laughs) My poetry? oh my G-d! It would be like a net (Laughs). If I were to make a movie based on my poetry, it would be real abstract and real stylized in some type of way. I don’t know but that would be funny.
With the live singing on set, were you nervous or anything like that?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: I was terrified. I was terrified. I didn’t know because it was the first time I had to actually dance and sing a song and the blocking of me put up into the air. It was really cool and fabulous and everything but I was like, will I be able to have the vocal support to kind of get through the song and sing it with sincerity and have the nuance and the storytelling? Pete kept doing and he would do it so brilliantly, every time. I would just be so intimidated especially with someone to say Pete’s standing over there and I’m just singing to him. He’s just like, you really do—he’s gonna give me a hard time about it for just messing with me but it was fun. In the end, it was fun.
In terms of the pandemic, how has that impacted you from a professional standpoint?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: I feel so fortunate to be able to have done this movie. It was right in the middle of the pandemic. It was during the summer and I was sitting around. I was supposed to meet Joe earlier in the year and it never happened and I didn’t know why. They just said, alright, Joe wants to meet with you. It was nice to be able to get away and be in Italy and Noto, this small town, and just kind of make a beautiful movie like this and a bit of escapism in a lot of ways. Some of its very fantastical and in a lot of ways, it was just nice to sing songs and just eat dinners with really cool people and become a better actor from working with Joe, Peter, Haley, and Ben Mendelsohn. I just really appreciate it because I know a lot of people didn’t have that opportunity. I was really grateful for it.
Are you ready to do another musical?
Kelvin Harrison Jr.: Yeah, I’m doing The Lion King right now, too. I forget that it technically is a known musical. So yeah, I mean, I guess so. I guess so. I have to make sure I keep my pipes in order.
MGM will release Cyrano in theaters on February 25, 2022.
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