William Jackson Harper has scored an trade hat trick.
The veteran stage and display screen actor co-stars in Oscar winner Barry Jenkins’ Amazon sequence “The Underground Railroad” and headlines Season 2 of “Love Life” (HBO Max), which simply wrapped capturing on its first episode in New York Metropolis.
He additionally takes a memorable highway journey within the lately launched film “We Broke Up” — or, as he calls it, “an indie anti-rom-com” co-starring Aya Money (“The Boys”).
“It begins off with a pair who’ve been collectively for 10 years. I play Doug, who asks his girlfriend, Lori [Cash], to marry him — and she or he throws up,” mentioned Harper, 41. “The film takes off from there as they’re heading to a marriage and attempting to get by that weekend.
“It’s a very thorny factor when two individuals are in a relationship and love one another, however need various things. By some means that feels very grown-up and attention-grabbing to me.”
On the TV entrance, Harper performs Royal in “The Underground Railroad,” the 10-part Amazon sequence based mostly on Colson Whitehead’s 2016 alt-reality novel. Set within the 19th century deep South, it envisions a world by which slaves attempting to flee to their freedom use an precise underground railroad — full with practice tracks, engineers, a conductor, and so on. The sequence focuses on Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and Caesar (Aaron Pierre), who’re making an attempt to flee from a Georgia plantation. Royal, who’s additionally featured within the guide, is a freeborn black man and an operator on the railroad who helps get passengers as far North as potential — and strikes up a friendship with Cora.
“It’s an actual paradigm shift for Cora when she sees Royal as a result of she says, ‘He’s simply wanting folks within the eye and speaking to them — there’s nothing subservient about him,’ ” Harper mentioned. “There’s nothing about him that feels obsequious in any method, and that’s one thing I held on to when attempting to play the character.
“I wished to get a really feel for the way Royal strikes by the world,” Harper mentioned. “There may be such a factor as doing an excessive amount of analysis for sure elements, however that wasn’t the case with this piece. I feel Royal has arrived at sure conclusions…and I actually latched on to that.
“I knew in regards to the guide for some time; it was a kind of books I stored that means to learn however averted as a result of I knew it will upset me,” he mentioned. “I knew the mission was coming to the display screen in some capability, however I didn’t suppose in one million years that I’d get to audition for it, a lot much less be concerned. After I did learn the guide I couldn’t put it down — it was heartbreaking and likewise very hopeful in moments and I used to be actually cheering for Cora.
“It was so efficient, evocative, harrowing and essential in so some ways.”
Harper, who performed Chidi Adagonye on “The Good Place” for all 4 seasons of the NBC afterlife sitcom — for which he obtained an Emmy nomination — pivots subsequent to “Love Life,” taking up within the anthology sequence from Anna Kendrick’s Season 1 character, Darby Carter.
“I’m taking part in Marcus,” he mentioned. “The primary season was about what it’s to be in New York in your 20s and discovering love being an enormous a part of that, together with a number of different points tied to being a teen new to the town.
“My story takes off from the standpoint of an individual who’s lived in New York for some time, is a bit more steady and a bit older [than Darby] and thinks his life goes to be this manner going ahead — and what occurs when all of that’s thrown up within the air…what it’s wish to be older and attempting so far and work out who you might be when every thing you thought you had been has fully shifted.
“It’s exploring different points by the lens of attempting to discovered who you’re meant to be with.”