Talent Discovery

Verge List: Sundance 2017

Harris Dickinson

Interview by James Patrick Herman

Photographs by Jeff Vespa

Where are you from?

I’m born and raised in East London — that’s my stomping ground. What’s the most London thing about me? I rush a lot. I walk very fast. I run when I don’t need to and I get annoyed at people walking slow. But I’m also a bit too polite to people if they stomp on me. I’ll say: Sorry. That’s a very London thing to do. I’m a bit overly polite sometimes and I’ll look back and say: Why am I apologizing?

Are you a Sundance virgin?

I am a Sundance virgin. It’s an exciting prospect, you know? It’s an honor to be shipped over there and get my ski clothes on and be a part of something so wonderful.

Do you even own ski clothes?

I don’t, no. Well, I’m going to have to buy them, aren’t I?

How does it feel to be a Sundance sensation?

I don’t know about that. But whatever that entails it feels wonderful. Have I been labeled that by you guys? It’s a good label. I’m really appreciative about that. I just don’t want to sound like a narcissist. But I feel like I could walk around in a T-shirt that says “Sundance Sensation” and everyone would finally give me the respect I deserve.

What is the buzz about your movie?

It’s street cast — random people from the street — minus three actors like myself, which is quite an exciting prospect. And a fun dynamic. This movie is raw, honest and intimate. It’s an unconventional portrayal of a teenager struggling with his identity and sexuality. No one comes of age in this movie — you don’t come of it out thinking that anything has been resolved or he’s changed. It’s an observational film, which is refreshing.

How would you describe your character?

Frankie is an aimless teenager living in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He’s conflicted, troubled, tortured.

Harris Dickinson

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Harris Dickinson

Do you relate to your character?

I do, actually. I don’t come from a privilege background. I live in a neighborhood that is very working class and kind of traditional. I relate to the fact that he lives in an area where self-growth and exploration isn’t really an option. He’s kind of trapped in this mediocracy and expectations of masculinity, and obviously I’m an actor but nobody in my family is an actor. So yeah, I relate to that. And also, we’ve all had questions of identity. I went through that more than anyone as an actor — that feeling of being lost and searching for something. There’s a certain amount of insecurity and loneliness that comes with trying to do something that no one else in your family has done. Or no one else is aware of.

What was your first acting experience?

I was quite an early bloomer. I used to get parts in the primary school plays. But my first real experience was a play I did at theater school when I was 13. I played this awful racist and when I came off stage, no one said, “Well done.” No one would speak to me. I thought I’d done a really terrible job. But someone came up to me and said: “You were really horrible.” I made them feel hate for my character — that was my first taste of it and I loved it. I was just this chubby little kid at the time.

Did you ever had a normal job?

Of course. I had many. I was a runner — like a PA — on music videos when I was sixteen.

That’s not a normal job.

Wait for it: I also used to pick up litter — like a trashman — and then I worked as a bartender and waiter for two years. My favorite? I used to teach drama to 5- to 10-year-olds.

What have you heard about the Sundance scene?

I’ve been told that you need to get a flu injection. And to pack some warm fucking clothes.

What would be the Sundance selfie of your dreams?

Me and my mate, Rob [Redford], skiing down the slope with a couple of beers.

What do you think of your pal Robert Redford?

My dad introduced me to him when I was younger.

Really?

No, I mean he told me about him. We watched one of his first movies with Jane Fonda. When my film got into Sundance, my dad kind of gave me the “See, there you go” look as if he had preconceived the whole thing, which is ridiculous.

 

Instagram: @harrisdickinson

 

Harris Dickinson
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