HFPA in Conversation: Jared Harris on School, Mad Men and Terror

Interview by Kirpi Uimonen for HFPA, 4th July, 2018

When English actor Jared Harris and the HFPA journalist Nellee Holmes met at the AMC offices he revealed what happened on the Mad Men set when he was directing the episode “Time & Life”: “There were some pretty crazy moments because by then it was season seven and all those guys, they knew each other really well and they were really comfortable with each other.  And the guys had started this game where when you weren’t watching, they would whack you in the balls with their fingers and try to whip your nuts.”

Harris was familiar with the cast.  After playing Lane Pryce on 35 episodes, his character’s arc came to an end. He remembers how the creator Matthew Weiner broke the news to him. “It was in season five.  At the end of the read-through of episode 10, Matthew said oh Jared, I want to talk to you, and he goes can you hang around? Just wait for me.  And then after he’d finished talking to everybody else, he went, so let’s go out to my office.  And I thought oh God. And then we were standing waiting for the lift, and he is an incredibly, loquacious person, he’s a great conversationalist, he’s incredibly knowledgeable and he’s very funny.  And we were standing by the lift and he started to struggle for small talk and he talked to me about the weather or something like that.  And he went oh God, this isn’t going to go well. And then when we entered his office he offered me a shot of brandy that was like $2,000 a bottle or something.  And then went sorry, I’ve got bad news and yeah, he told me that he was going to kill Lane off in episode 12.”

On his most recent TV show, The Terror, Harris faced different kinds of challenges while on location in Hungary and Croatia. “It was very cold in Hungary when we first started.  And at one point there were about four languages being spoken on set, which can be tricky.  And then by the time we got to Croatia, we were into spring.  So, the challenge when we got there was we were still pretending to be in the Arctic, so we’re covered in all this arctic gear and several people were passing out from heat stroke because it was really tough.”

He found that his boarding school experiences helped him with his job on The Terror. “It was an all-boys school, so it’s very male-centric and those extreme disciplines.  And there was a hierarchy, and there were teachers who were kind and there were teachers who were monsters, who for some reason didn’t like specific students and would always pick on those students, and everyone had somebody like that.  It was a very, very strict school and it doesn’t exist anymore.”

Harris also talks about when he felt like a second-class citizen, what the number 108 means to him, why candy was big currency in his boarding school, why he needed a little bit of breathing room from his famous parents (actors Richard Harris and Elizabeth Rees), when he discovered his interest for acting, what happened when his father saw him in a play for the first time, why he considers his father a rule breaker, how did he feel about his last day on the Mad Men set, why karaoke played an important role in his love life, why it is important that his wife is an equal partner, what does fame mean to him, and his next projects – the TV shows Carnival Road and Chernobyl.

This interview was originally published by the HFPA. It has been reposted here for posterity.