Although still be best known for his roles on such hit shows as Van Helsing, Bates Motel and The Killing, with two new shows out and a secret one in production (check the internet), rising star Richard Harmon is about to break out.
We sat with him to discuss his new interactive show Genzeroes, his take on audience participation in art, and why he’s so drawn to playing psychopaths.
LEO: Tell us a little bit about Genzeroes?
RICHARD: Genzeroes is, I think, one of the world’s first – if not the first – NFT funded series. What that means is it really gives the audience a say in the matter of where our show goes and how the creativity flows. That they’re so involved with it was something that was very cool to me and is one of the things that drew me to it. Storyline wise, it’s about the earth after aliens have done a massive invasion, stripped the earth of all its natural resources and left to move on to their next conquest, leaving the earth as a burning pile of rubble essentially. And what humans are left have scavenged and found ways to try to live, and have split up into different factions of humans and what they believe in. And I lead one of those factions who actually worships the aliens and are feverishly awaiting their return.
The website mentions that it’s interactive, and you said that people have a way in choosing where the story goes. How does that work exactly?
I’m really hoping I’m not about to bastardize this, but I’m going to give it my best. There’s communities and groups which you can join, and there’s a lot of dialogue between them and us the entire way through us making the show and the comics as well, ’cause they go hand in hand. So, they’ll do interviews with us and receive very frequent updates of how the show’s coming along and what’s happening, and they get to interact while we are making it, and that kind of helps indicate to the creators of the show where they want to go with it and what the audience actually wants.
But on a larger question, how do you feel about audiences having a say in an artistic endeavor? Are you worried that this might open a can of worms, or do you think there’s room for this to become its own medium?
I think you nailed it in the latter half of the question, in that I think there is room for everything and that this can be its own medium. And that’s good. But there has to be a line that is drawn between artists and what they want to make, because an artist has to be able to make what they want. And I think that’s something that’s sacred in this world and something that shouldn’t be touched, and something that – even without audience interaction – is already being touched, whether through studios or the money people or anything else. You’re going to find that interference in any mode of entertainment. It’s already happening. So, I’m not upset about audience interaction and making a difference in the telling of a story on this type of show, I very much like it in fact. But, if you’re talking about making a movie and it’s someone’s passion project and it’s what the director has always wanted to make, or what the writers always wanted to make, then no. I don’t think that should be touched in any way, shape, or form because that type of art has to remain sacred.
What specifically drew you to this role?
First and foremost was working with so many of my friends; they put together an incredible team of people that I’ve known for years. I’ve known Matt Venables and Jeremy Smith who wrote and helped create the project, and they’re just fantastic writers. We’ve worked together on many TV shows, and I’ve always told them I’ll work with them till the very end of all of our lives, as long as they let me. And they put together an incredible cast that I’ve worked with before in many different things. And, also, I just love playing psychopaths. That’s the main thing that drew me to the character Vigo. I loved that. Plus, they told me I’d get to have metal teeth, so that was fun.
Why are you so drawn to psychopaths?
It’s freedom of choice for an actor. If you’re playing a good guy, there’s a moral compass that you have to constantly abide by and check right before you naturally want to react to anything. You have to think, would my character do this? Would they be okay with doing this morally? With the psychopath, you get to go off your cuff and do whatever whim you feel. You can just go ahead and do it because they have no moral compass to check in on. So as an actor, you have no boundaries that are not crossable. You get to just go. And that’s very fun.
Since you’ve played psychopaths and enjoy doing so, have you done much research on them? Is there anyone that has stood out as a blueprint?
I’ve definitely done a lot of research. Probably too much. But I don’t like taking any of them as too much of a blueprint or example. I think sometimes you just have to be like – well, what would Richard do if he was just completely and utterly unshackled of morality and thought these things, which I don’t think, but what if I did? And what if, when I think those things, I’m completely unshackled of my moral compass. That’s probably not going to sound good when people see me do the things I do, but that’s probably what I do. [Laughs]
What made you want to become an actor?
I grew up in a film business family. My dad was a theater actor in the ’70s and then became an assistant director for 30 years and is now a director. My mom was an actor, then became an accountant and a producer, and now is just producing film, but maybe going into directing. My big sister is an actor, but its transitioning into directing. So, I guess the answer to that question is, I had no hope in hell of getting out of it. But I think it was just the place. I knew that being on set was the place that I wanted to be on this planet. That’s where I’m happiest. I knew that then when I was eight years old, visiting my dad and watching him work, and I know that now. I was on set for work yesterday and I just felt so at home and happy there. So, acting is my way to get back on set and being in my happy place.
Do you have any desires to be a director yourself?
Not even remotely. I’m still working on being a better actor, so why would I take time to try to go and direct when I know that’s not the main thing I want to do. I want to be an actor, so I should spend all my time trying to be as good at that as I can be.
If given the opportunity, who would you work with that you haven’t already worked with? If you had to name three.
I’d go with the Coen brothers – I’m gonna group them as one. I’d love to do a movie for them, that’d be incredible. I’d love to work with Paul Dano. I think he’s fantastic. And I’d say, Oh God! I’m going to go with Michael Shannon. He’s just incredible.
And I will note that these are three that can be changed on any given day.
Oh, literally, yeah, on any given day I can give you three different answers. I’d love to work with Wong Kar-Wai. I don’t know if he’d ever have me, but I’d love to work with him.
Outside of family, is there anyone you consider a big inspiration in your work?
Bob Dylan. And Jack Nicholson.
Why Bob Dylan?
He is my favorite artist of all time. I grew up on him, my dad was always playing him, and he became my favorite musician and artist just in general. And I just love the way he’s a bunch of mysteries wrapped up in one. I feel like half of his mysteries is just him fucking with us, but I kind of respect that.
What’s next for Richard Harmon?
A TV show that I’m incredibly proud of just came out on Netflix called Fakes, so everybody that hasn’t seen it should watch it so we can get a second season and keep telling this incredible story that I really want to keep telling. And then I’m working on a television show right now that I just started yesterday, and I’ll be working on for the next couple months. I don’t think I’m allowed to say what it is. But apparently the internet already found out, so it took them one day [laughs]. So, you could check the internet. It’s very fun because it’s a very different type of show. Definitely out of my wheelhouse and it’s been very enjoyable – after one day.
CHECK OUT RICHARD
As Tryst on the Netflix series Fakes
As Viggo on the NFT-powered series Genzeroes
As Jasper on the AMC crime series The Killing
As Max Norman on the fantasy horror series Van Helsing