Jared Harris: “HBO’s Chernobyl, The Crown and Mad Men” | Talks at Google

Welcome, Jared Harris, to Google Los Angeles. [APPLAUSE] We– we have a few fans here. We are so glad
you’re here today. And your wife is
here, which is– if you don’t follow
her on Twitter, she’s even more fun
than Jared’s Twitter. JARED HARRIS: Much more fun. And she does most of
my Twitter as well. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Well
we’re going to jump right in, because we do have a
lot to cover today, and we only have an hour. I could talk with this man
all afternoon, I think, but let’s start first
with some Google Trends. And believe it or not,
if we go back to 2004, we find that it was
an interesting year around December 2011. And you might say,
well, why is that? Well, it’s because that’s
when “Mad Men” spiked. JARED HARRIS: Yeah. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Yes. But interestingly
enough, “Mad Men” wasn’t on the tube at that time. You were spiking, Lane
Pryce with spiking. And it’s because we were
all binging on Netflix. So I’m curious, do you
remember that spike? I mean, I know it’s a
little bit far back, but you were on the
series at that time. What was it like when that
hype hit for “Mad Men”? JARED HARRIS: Well,
also, December 2011 is when Sherlock Holmes “A
Game of Shadows” came out, so it’s probably got a lot
to do with that as well. Yeah, I remember being
unemployed at that point. Well, unemployed, I mean in
between, waiting for the season then to pick back up again. What do I remember
about that time? I wasn’t aware of a sort
of big spike of interest from around “Mad
Men” particularly. I remember my agent having
a little bit of problems renegotiating a new contract
for the next– for season five. So I wasn’t quite
sure if I was going to be on it, the next season. But yeah, I mean, for me, I
remember that period mostly to do with the
Sherlock Holmes movie. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Very interesting. Well let’s talk about
going into that season. Because June 2012,
I pulled this– I was doing my research, and
I found this great quote, that I totally related
to immediately, because it stated that few
characters on “Mad Men” had the impact that
Lane Pryce did. And few events on the show
were as heavy, and painful, and sadly real as Lane’s death. Like the passing of
a real loved one, it’s a moment that sneaks up on
you and kicks you in the gut. But his suicide hurt even
more because it definitely examined so many of the ideas
that “Mad Men” brought out as one of the best
shows at that time. And with Pryce’s
death, “Mad Men” was able to stay true to
characters, and really to the series itself, but just
knocked the wind out of you. What was that like going through
that particular time for Lane? JARED HARRIS: Well,
I didn’t know– when that season
started, I had no idea that that was going to be my
last season, although there had been talk that
somebody was going to be written off the show. And I remember
Vincent Kartheiser and I were sitting
and chatting, and we were looking around the
cast trying to figure out who it was going to be. It won’t be Jon Hamm, obviously. It won’t be Elisabeth Moss. You don’t get rid
of John Slattery, because everything
he says is funny. They just brought back
Aaron onto the show, so it would be pointless
to get rid of him again. You can’t get rid of
Christina, because she’s the face of the show. I mean, I think that she was a
character that most people seem to respond to. So we looked at each other and
went I think it’s one of us. Yeah. And then, after it happened– my wife remembers this–
we had lunch with Vinny, and he said this
is all your fault. He said you were
brought on the show to be the bad guy, to be an
antagonist to Don Draper. He says, but you
turned the character into a favorable character,
a sympathetic character. And Matt had told
Vinny quite early on, don’t worry you’ll
never be written off the show because you never
get rid of the bad guy. He’d said, so the reason
you’re off the show is because of your vanity. I didn’t know. So it was episode 10. We do read throughs
before every episode. And episode– the read for
the episode 10, Matt said– he likes to chat to the
actors after the read through. It’s a chance for
him to give them notes about specific
scenes, because he’s not going to be there on
set the whole time. And he said, oh, Jared, he
says, I want to talk to you. Just take a seat,
hang around a second. So he talked to everybody
else, everybody else. And then it was just him and
me left in the conference room. And he said, let’s
go up to my office. First sign. Then he said, I don’t– we were standing by the lift,
waiting for the lift to arrive. And he is the most brilliant
company in the world. If you were sat next to him at
dinner, you would be delighted. He’s just the most
interesting person, a brilliant conversationalist. He starts talking
about the weather. That’s sign two. And then, third sign was when we
get to the door of his office, and he says, would you
like a shot of brandy? And I knew I was in
trouble at that point. And yeah, I swear, I swore
and said, oh, god no. And he went, yeah, I’m
sorry, I’m really sorry, it’s bad news. But I knew immediately
when he told me that it was going to be
the defining character arc of that season. So it was going to be good
for me, but at the same time, I was also going to
be no longer working on the best show on television. So it was bittersweet. But when he started to
tell me the story of how that episode was going to
go, and he got to the bit where the Jaguar wouldn’t start,
I fell off the chair laughing. It was so funny. But again, brilliant
on his part, because from a
writer’s point of view, he sets up the expectation
that you know that something’s going to go wrong for this guy. And then he pays it
off with a big joke. So you think the
whole thing is over, that whole development
has been finished. So actually when he
did hang himself, it was a surprise, even
though he’d signaled it. Because he managed to
play it off with a joke. It’s brilliant writing. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
And do you feel like when you get
scenes like that, do you just follow the
writing, or how much do you prepare to die? JARED HARRIS: Well,
you didn’t see that. I mean so– I mean the actual scene where
he was dead was as a makeup job. So I remember having
to walk from the makeup trailer to the sound stage,
practically with a paper bag over my head so no one
would see what it looked like. Because they were worried
about people taking pictures. The big scene in that story is
the scene where Don fires him. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
It’s like going through the stages of grief. JARED HARRIS: Yeah,
definitely, yeah. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: I just
watched it again yesterday, and it is brutal to watch
you go through each stage. JARED HARRIS: Yeah. Well, it was curious
as well, because it’s one of those things where
you’re sort of studying a scene, and you’re trying
to figure out what’s happening to the
character and how you’re going to play the scene. But one of the things
I kept bumping into is, why doesn’t
he just say this? Like, I could get– I can get Lane out
of this problem. I can get him out
of this, you know. Because you know, Don wouldn’t– Don wouldn’t settle for this. Roger wouldn’t settle for this. They would throw the blackmail
back into their face– you know, the thing with Joan. They would use all
those cards to make sure this didn’t happen. And he wouldn’t do it. It was quite frustrating. But at the same
time, that’s also discovery of defining
the character, because they don’t do that. They won’t play those cards. Yeah, it was a
brilliantly written scene. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: It was
brilliantly played as well. Let’s talk a little
bit more about what’s next in trending for you. And that’s “The Crown.” Move ahead a few years to
November 2016, as the premiere. And you’re playing this iconic
character for your homeland. We’ve had so many
King George the VI. How did you put your
mark on that role? JARED HARRIS: Yes, we shot
that at Elstree Studios. And right outside, when I would
walk out of my dressing room to go to the sound stage, there
was a huge, 60-foot high poster of Colin Firth as George
VI in “The King’s Speech.” Because they’d shot it there. So every day, I would walk
out and see this thing. And I would look– and I
took it personally at first, because of course, you
take everything personally. I’d look and then go what
the f– is that thing there. But after about a week, I
noticed that he looked nothing like him either. And I took great
solace from that. I didn’t have to worry about
whether or not I looked– because neither of
us looked like him. The focus on that character was
completely different from what Colin had to do,
because that story was based on an
individual overcoming a personal, an impediment,
and a problem with that. But our story was about
a father and a family, and him basically
realizing that he was going to have to let go of
his family before he was ready, and before he realized
he was going to have to. And then, that concern
that you would have that is she ready to take over. And to try and– in some way, that big
scene with Matt Smith, before the duck hunting
scene, without letting him know, but he was
tipping his hat towards, I’m not going to be
here, and you’re going to have to do this job for me. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Right. I remember that scene. And another one
that I truly love, it’s my personal favorite,
is the Christmas scene where the townsfolk
come in to sing carols to the royal family. And for those of you
that don’t know it, the royal family
is sitting there. You’re right in the center. And this young
little girl comes in and brings you this
brilliantly homemade crown. And I’d love for you to
talk about that a minute, because for me, I saw
every stage of King George at that time, as a leader,
as one of his subjects, standing with them. And then as a father,
and then as a human, knowing his mortality. JARED HARRIS: Yeah, that wasn’t
in the script originally. That was something
that came about from– Stephen Daldry had the idea,
that he wanted something to happen that would
unsettle the family. That they would have a
tip off that something wasn’t quite right. And so he wanted– he said, I’ve got this idea
that when we do the carol scene, if you are comfortable with
it, Jared, that you’ll get up, and you’ll go and join them, and
it’ll be this strange moment. But then something
happened on the way over. And it was really– the carol that
they were singing, and by the time that I was
walking over, there was there was a lyric in the carol that
said, if I were a wise man, I would do my part. And it was, suddenly,
it was the realization that his opportunities
to do the right thing, the smart thing
had passed him by. And that this was it. And it just so happened,
by accident, really. I wasn’t– that wasn’t in
the script, specifically, that there was that big reaction
that was going to happen. It just sort of happened. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Do you
discover things like that– I mean, obviously
you discovered that– when you’re shooting
something like that, is that something that you,
as an actor, like just let– you were riding the scene,
or do you think, ah, we’re going to do
another take, I’m going to dig into that and
kind of [INAUDIBLE] more. JARED HARRIS: You always
beg for more takes, always. Even on big budget movies, you
only have three or four takes. And you know, it’s
quite rare where they’ll have that kind of time. You have a plan. You always have to be prepared. You have to have a plan. You have an idea of
what you want to do. And you try and nail
it on the first two, and then beg for more takes,
so that you can experiment and try different stuff out. Because the real
thing is, is we’re not going to be in
the editing room when they rewrite the
script for the last time. And you don’t know what’s
going to be useful, in terms of the emphasis of
the story and stuff like that. So you try and give them
as many options as you can, that when they get
to the editing room that they have these different
colors that they can use, that they might not
have realized or thought of at the time that
we’re going to be useful. And you can try to
plan out big moments, but weirdly, the second
you start to try and do that, they [INAUDIBLE]
you know, it’s almost like the imp of the perverse. The second you sit there and go,
oh, this is a scene about this, something in your
subconscious will go, well, I’m not going
to cooperate with you. So you’ve got to do
something, you’ve got to trick yourself
into thinking it’s about something else. And then the best time is when
things just happen by accident. And you suddenly–
you’re learning something about the
role as you’re doing it. And again, that’s one
of the different things about if you’re acting
on screen, as opposed to acting in a play. In theater, through
rehearsal, you have a great
opportunity to discover all these different
facets of the part. But in film and television,
you can do all the thinking you want to do in your– in the bathroom, in the
shower, wherever, as you’re– whatever, doing your stuff
around the house, but nothing counts until you’re
actually doing it. And that’s when you figure
out, that’s when you learn what something is or what it isn’t. It doesn’t– it’s not until
you actually doing it that you start to figure out what it is. So that’s why I
always think I’d like to re-shoot the first week
of everything I’ve ever done. But, of course,
you can’t do that. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
We would be happy. Let’s move forward a
little bit now to 2019, where we are definitely seeing
trends with “Chernobyl.” And how many of you
have seen ” Chernobyl”? Or at least– yes, excellent. JARED HARRIS: Oh, there’s
room for improvement. Yes, that’s good. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
If you haven’t– JARED HARRIS: Yeah, I like that. Can still keep going somewhere. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Definitely, you want to join onto, hop
onto the bandwagon, because it’s the
highest peak yet. It is spiking amazingly quick
as we look across social media. And I think we have a clip
that we’d like to show. And then we’ll jump
into questions. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] – Well, the good we did. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that
to them, justice was done. See, a just world
is a sane world. There was nothing
saying about Chernobyl. I’m pleased to report that
the situation in Chernobyl is stable. In terms of radiation, I’m told
it’s the equivalent of a chest X-ray. – Chernobyl is on fire. And every atom of uranium
is like a bullet penetrating everything in its path– metal, concrete, flesh. Now Chernobyl holds over three
trillion of these bullets. Some of them will not stop
firing for 50,000 years. – Tell me how to put it out. – You are dealing with
something that has never occurred on this planet. – Cut the phone lines, contain
the spread of misinformation. – What will happen to our boys? – The pain is unimaginable. In three days to three
weeks, you’re dead. – You can see him, but you
can’t touch him, you understand? – What happened on the
night of the accident? – Asking the right question
won’t get you the truth. There is no truth. – What happened then? What happened after? All of it. All of it. – Madness. [END PLAYBACK] [APPLAUSE] JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
It’s just fantastic. I mean your work
is wonderful there. And it’s– the subject matter
is so intense and riveting. In addition to Emmy buzz, it
is HBO’s second rated program, all time, after
“Game of Thrones,” and that is saying something. Take that, “Mad Men.” JARED HARRIS: Coming for you. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: I’m sorry? JARED HARRIS: I said we’re going
to come for that number one slot. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: That’s right. That’s right. Some of the smallest details,
in the sets and the script, I mean the authenticity– well, the authenticity of how
this particular depiction has been done and the immersion into
this story, how did that help you get into this character? How did it transport you? And talk a little bit
about that with us. JARED HARRIS: Yeah, the
desire for the authenticity was there right
from the beginning. And it was there in the script. It was there in the
research that Craig did. And it was also
there in the desire not to sensationalize
the story, and then in all the specific departments. So for example, one of the first
interactions I had with them is when you go for
the costume fitting. And it was pretty obvious
that “Vanity Fair” was not going to be doing a
photo-shoot on “Chernobyl.” They had basically sort of
small, medium, and large. And there was no re-tailoring
of anything to fit. We had– the costume
assistant was Russian and had worked in the
industry in the Soviet Union. And the material was
really, really thick, so it sort of hung off
you like a canvas tent. And again, they had
somebody who came in who made sure that
the glasses were, again, they were sort of
functional glasses, that you did not have that
many options to choose from– colors, basically it
was black or brown. And then in terms of the
details, and the set dressing, and the production
design, and everything, when we first walked into the– episode five, is centered
around a trial, where they are– it’s basically a
show trial, where they’re trying to blame the
whole thing on human error, much the same way as
when a plane goes down, they would like to try
and blame the pilots. Here they were trying to
blame the plant operators and say there was nothing
wrong with the machinery, there’s nothing wrong with
the design of the reactors, there is nothing wrong
with the organization. It was all down to
individual error. So there’s this
big, big show trial. And that– the
photographs of that, which you can see online– and there’s even some
footage from it– it was– I mean, it was eerie. It was exactly the same
when you’d walk in, even down to the stifling heat. And these little
fans that would make noises as they would
sort of turn from side to side, which drove the
sound designers crazy. Yeah, that feeling
of authenticity was really, really important. And again, I’m sure
it’s the reason why they went for a European director. They went for Johan Renck, who
again, amazing, an amazing eye. Because, again, you can see that
there’s a real visual flair, but without it being, again, I
don’t think a better word, than without trying to
sensationalize it. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
And, I totally– it’s just kind of the
raw visceral effect of the entire piece. Doing that– how
long did it take you to shoot all five episodes? JARED HARRIS: Five months. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: Five months. In that time, how hard was
it to go home at night? And do you let it go? Do you kind of wallow
in that for five months? JARED HARRIS: There’s
no time for wallowing, because you’ve got something
enormous to do the next day. I mean, you know, as soon
as something’s finished, there’s a sort of relief,
you get that off your plate. And then you’re
looking ahead to– I mean, really,
what’s happening, during the day that
you’re shooting something, if you’ve got some
time off, you’re already trying to
make sure that you’re going to be ready for
what’s coming down the line. So yeah, there was no– JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: But
there are no light scenes that give you a break. JARED HARRIS: I asked
for some comedy. I did. I made a pitch to Craig. I said, you know, Russians
have a good sense of humor. Yeah, no, no jokes for you. And he can write funny,
as well, you know. No, he wouldn’t
give me any funny. I really wanted some funny. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Yeah, I’m with you. JARED HARRIS: He
gave me one joke. In the end, he gave me one joke. I’m not going to give it away. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: Yeah, watch till the end for that joke. JARED HARRIS: It’s
an episode four. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: So how– But Stellan got a
couple of jokes as well, but then he also– he’s
brilliant, because he can– he’s brilliant at finding
humor in something. So he ended up with more
jokes than Craig intended. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: How hard is it to prepare for a role like that? JARED HARRIS: Well,
this was a real person, so there’s a lot of– well, when you’re
playing a real character, there’s information
that’s out there. So there’s books, quite often
there’s footage, there’s audio. On this character,
though, the Soviets had quite successfully
cut him out of the story. They threatened to
erase him from history. And so, in a lot of
the books that I read, he wasn’t mentioned a lot. And this was probably
the first time that I’ve played a historical
character where the research wasn’t really that helpful. And that was because Craig
had a different thing in mind. Because the relationship that
the character that I play has is played in contrast
to Stellan’s character. So you needed to occupy
a different space than Stellan’s character. So, I mean, in real life, from
what I saw of Legasov, he– you know, he had
that kind of Slavic, Soviet swagger about him. He was an alpha male. He projected confidence. And that was really
territory that was in Stellan’s character. And you know, so I had to find
something different to serve the narrative. The things that would
happen historically were all accurate, so it
was authentic in that case. But you have to play the– you do all this
research, but at the end, you’re not going to
play your research, you’re going to play the script. And the writer has done
all that research, as well. And they’ve made
decisions about what they want to use in their
story and what is not necessary for their story. So you’ve got to play the
version of the character that the writer has
written for you. Otherwise, you know,
well, you can imagine, that makes for some very
tense shooting days. So you have to just– you get on board. You say, yes. You get on board
and you want to do, you’ve got to do that version. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: So
you’ve mentioned on Twitter, “So far I’ve been shot six
times, eaten by sharks, rolled over the
Reichenbach Falls, bludgeoned with a chair leg,
roasted by Mount Vesuvius, hung twice, and
died in my sleep. But my personal favorite
is being split in half by the space-time continuum.” Why did you keep dying? JARED HARRIS: Well, yeah,
I don’t write the scripts. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Is it typecasting? JARED HARRIS: Does he die well? Yes. I’m not sure. I mean, you know, if they’re
going to kill off a character, it normally means that
they want a payoff. So, if your character
is going to die, normally it’s going to
have an emotional resonance with the audience. So it means that
the part is good. It sucks for the job
longevity, because you have to keep finding a
new job all the time. You’re not going to
be in the sequel– or maybe you will. Yeah, well that
tweet was in reply to someone who says that,
someone who said that I hang myself in every role. And I was really just pointing
out that was only twice. And actually, if you want to
go through the different ways my characters been
killed, there’s a whole way of
different examples of how my characters
have been knocked off. And hanging is only
in two of them. So I really was getting out
that person for shoddy research. There’s a thing
called Google, which you can go online and
figure all that stuff out. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
And then there’s YouTube, you can see the video footage. JARED HARRIS:
Yeah, we should let people know about this thing. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
We’ll work on it. So a lot of you may
or may not know, but Jared’s father also
brought iconic roles to us, onstage, onscreen– King Arthur, Dumbledore,
to say a few. I found a beautiful
photo and quote that you had posted on social media. Can you tell us what
it was like having Richard Harris as your
father growing up? JARED HARRIS: Well, I mean,
I didn’t have another father, so I’d have nothing
to compare it to. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: But you
had Dumbledore and King Arthur. JARED HARRIS: Yeah, he didn’t
bring his parts back with him. I have to say that about him. He– on the other
hand, he would say that the greatest part he ever
played was Richard Harris. And there was an
element about him, where he was aware of inventing
himself, inventing his story, inventing his mythology,
inventing his persona, and having fun with it. He was a– he was
a rule breaker. When we were kids, I remember he
bought a house in the Bahamas. And we went down to this house. And it was furnished
with the previous owners, all of their furnishings
and stuff like that. So it had all these sort of
strange little chotchkies around the place. And we’d been on these
long, long flights, coming from England, we’d been on like
a 10-hour flight or something. So we were young boys, and
we’d been cooped up all day, and we start kicking the ball
around inside the living room. So, normally, you’d be told
go and kick the ball outside. He said, I hate that figurine. I’ll give you 20 bucks if you
can smash it with the football. And, so we would– yeah,
we would just break stuff in the house, and he loved it. So there are three boys with
that kind of sense of anarchy. I mean, it was great fun, yeah. And on the other
hand, when you’re the child of somebody
famous, there’s that feeling that
you were sharing that person with the world,
which you slightly resent, you know, because you
want them for yourself, ans everyone wants– you feel ownership
over your parents. And so, that’s a little, there’s
a little bit of tension there. But on the other hand, if your
dad is the chief of police, or your mom is the chief of
police in the local town, they’re a big figure. I mean, everyone’s parents are– you start off,
they’re gods to you. And then you become
disillusioned. And then you love them again. But you go through a
familiar thing with your– that same journey that
everyone goes through with their parents. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: Would you say that you followed
in his footsteps for a profession of your
own or he had influence? JARED HARRIS: I was very,
very shy when I was younger. So, no, I did not think
that I was going to do this. Did I follow– I mean, he was
encouraging, though. I remember him– I was at Duke
University, and that’s when I first started to get into
theater and get into acting. And he had avoided coming
down to see me in a play, because he thought
I was gonna stink. And my mother had come
down a couple of times. And she’d seen me in some plays. And said, oh, you should
really go down and see him. He’s really very good. And he went, well, you would
say that, you’re his mother. And she said, no no,
you should go down. And he put it off
until I graduated and I did a summer play there. And he came down to
come and see that. I can still hear the first
laugh that I got from him. It was a play called
“Entertaining Mr. Sloane.” And yeah, I remember
it really well. I remember afterwards, when the
play was over, and coming out from the dressing room. And he was really excited. And I think it was because
we had something in common that we could– we both
obviously– obviously, he loved it. But I was interested
and passionate about it. And so we had this new
connection, you know. Yeah, but he had avoided it
up to that point, coming down to see me in anything. And then afterwards, it’s quite
hard to talk about parts– I couldn’t discuss
roles with him, because he’d have to have read
the same script that I’d read. But we would talk
about classical roles, and he would act out– I mean, I remember
vividly him still acting out Olivier’s death scene
in “Coriolanus” at the dinner table. It was quite spectacular,
because Olivier runs up this flight of stairs. He gets stabbed in the
stomach with a spear, falls over backwards
onto someone’s shoulder, and then flipped
onto a staircase, and rolls all the way
down the staircase, and then dies at the front
of the stage, like that. And he would– it was
fantastic– here’s what– you know. And then he would–
yeah, so he would– we would discuss roles and parts
that he’d either had played, or wanted to play, or
he’d seen people play. So, yeah, we had that. We could talk about that. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: I could
listen to those stories, but I know we have
questions out here that folks will want to ask. We do have our cube here. While we’re getting
the first one teed up, I have one more
data point for you. JARED HARRIS: Sure. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: So, we have a list of the top five states– JARED HARRIS: OK. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Where
you’ve been searched in the US since 2004. I’ll even say 50 states and
the District of Columbia. So you’ve got 51 choices. What do you think
is state number one? JARED HARRIS: Well,
obviously, it’s not going to be something
that I’m going to guess. So I’d say Rhode Island. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Close. Montana. JARED HARRIS: Montana. Well, I did a movie in Montana. Yeah, we shot– JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: That’s why. JARED HARRIS: We shot
“Certain Women,” and Robert– the Bruce, yeah. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: All
right, and one of your homes, one of your home states is– JARED HARRIS: New York. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Yes. JARED HARRIS: That’s good. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Then we have– yes. JARED HARRIS: I lived in
New York for a long time. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: And then
we’re going to round out– I’m going to go ahead, since
we want to get to questions. We’ll round out the
Our government loves you. JARED HARRIS: I
don’t know if that’s a good or a bad
thing at the moment. I should be nervous. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: We’ll
will take bipartisanship when we can get it, thank you. JARED HARRIS: It depends on
which branch of the government was googling me. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: And then we’ll finish out with
Massachusetts and Idaho. JARED HARRIS: Massachusetts,
really, and Idaho. Idaho– where is Idaho? JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
West of Montana, exactly. JARED HARRIS: That’s
west of Montana. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Yes. JARED HARRIS: Oh, OK. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Yes. All right, questions. JARED HARRIS: I would
have failed that one. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Yeah. AUDIENCE: Thank you for coming. JARED HARRIS: Hey. AUDIENCE: So you’re
talking about playing historic characters. Who’s one public figure who
would really like to play? JARED HARRIS: Oh good question. And I can now plug
myself, thank you. I want to play
Ulysses S Grant again. I became fascinated
with his life when I was doing the
research for Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln.”
and I was really taken by how corrupted that
narrative that we have of him, it’s still– our opinion of who he
has still been formed by the people who rewrote
history, essentially, after that war ended. And his reputation
still suffers from it. So I was fascinated by that. And, yeah, so thank you. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Next, behind you. AUDIENCE: So you’ve
been involved in “The Crown” and “Chernobyl,”
two non-fiction dramas. And it seems like there’s a
recent surge in popularity in that genre. So other than you’re
brilliant acting, what’s contributed to that? JARED HARRIS:
Well, first of all, haven’t we seen enough
remakes of the same story? There’s tremendous
stories out there from all sort– from
all cultures that are being ignored. And I think it’s a fantastic
thing that’s happening people, that people are starting
to look into history and to find these stories
that can still speak to us, rather than do we really
need another “Robin Hood.” So I think it’s time to do that. Plus, there’s this
huge explosion in the need for stories
because of all these streaming platforms that are going to
be competing with each other. And they’re going to need to
have new content so that people will subscribe to
their services. So I think there’s a
hunger for stories. And one of the places
that one can go to is, you can look to history. So I’m all for that. Because I love history. I’m fascinated by–
every time I do a part, then you start, you
do research on it, you invariably find
amazing stories that people are ignoring. Even on something like
that movie “Allied.” There’s an incredible story
that’s partly inspired what that was about. But that Churchill– Churchill, after
Dunkirk, and they are no longer able to operate
forces in occupied countries. Churchill creates this
thing called the SOE. And with the idea of collecting
information and sending people in four-man groups over
into occupied countries to collect information and to
sabotage German supply lines. But you had to have
native speakers. So they were recruiting people
out of language schools. And then giving them a quick,
sort of four-week course in how to be a spy, and then
sending them over there. There was a huge attrition
rate for these people. 75% of them died. Anyway, there’s great
stories out there. AUDIENCE: Thank you. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Yeah. JARED HARRIS: Not on
the basketball team. AUDIENCE: Hi. So I’m a huge fan
of your father’s, like “Red Desert” and
“Juggernaut” and everything that he did. So thank you for
speaking about him. But I’m also wondering if
while you were growing up, if he shared these movies
with you and your brothers, or if you had to seek
them out yourself, or how you became
acquainted with his work? JARED HARRIS: Yeah, I
remember going to “Camelot” in the theaters. I mean, I remember
going to “Juggernaut” in West End, Leicester Square. He didn’t have
screenings to sort of, hey, boys, here’s
my newest movie. He didn’t do that. But you know, yes, you
would go to the cinema. You would go and see stuff. He would talk about things
that he was about to do. If there was a script that he’d
done that he was excited about, he’d basically act out
the whole thing for you, so you’d feel that you’d seen it
a year before anyone else had. And then sometimes he’d
tell us about things he was going to do, and we’d
go, oh, don’t do that one, but he wouldn’t listen to us. I remember him
talking about “Orca,” that he was going to do “Orca.” and he described
the story to us. We went, yeah, that’s
really liked “Jaws.” Possibly not that one. He’d go, no, it’s
completely different. It’s a totally different story. We said, have you seen “Jaws?” He says, no. It’s very like “Jaws” dad. But what did I know, that
turned out to be a hit. AUDIENCE: I have a question. JARED HARRIS: If
there was a backboard, that would have bounced in. AUDIENCE: We’re very good at
basketball here at Google. So I’m a huge fan
of “The Expanse.” JARED HARRIS: Same here. AUDIENCE: And it’s
a really great show. And I’m in particular interested
in how all of the actors learned to speak a
dialect that doesn’t exist with such interesting accents,
and all seemed to actually be expressing the same culture,
like how did how did everyone learn to do that? JARED HARRIS: Yes, well, so
they invented the language, the Belter language. And then they had a
dialect coach, who– when I joined it, they said, we
have an accent for the Belters. Like a curry, you’ve got
mild, medium, or spicy. And which one do you want to do? People can choose. And I said, well,
I’m supposed to be the sort of original
Belter, so I’ll go for the hardest, the most
extreme version of that accent. And they have someone there
who helps you with it. They go through
all your dialogue, and they’ll send you a
little video, audio clips, so you can listen to it. But they leave that up
to you, to whoever’s playing that part to decide
what their comfort level is. But I thought it was a really
interesting journey for how they came up with that accent. Because there’s a lot of– there’s about three
different things in it. There ends up being
English in it, because– so there’s a sort of a little
bit of Cockney in there, that wasn’t originally
part of the plan. But part of their idea was
just 200 years in the future that there will be– that Chinese will be a
huge part of that language. So there was a lot of– there was a lot of Chinese,
a Chinese accent in it. Plus, there was
a little bit of– there’s African in there. They were looking
at wherever they saw population densities would be. And that they would be the
people who initially would have been sent out into the belts,
to go and work the belt. It’s very well thought out. The books are amazing. I don’t know if
you read the books. One of the reasons why
that show works so well is because it’s based on books,
not unlike “Game of Thrones,” there’s a world– the world-building has all being
done before the writers sat down to figure it out. Because you don’t
have that much time to do that stuff if you’re
on a television show. Because you can–
you’ll see quite often that the pilot
will be brilliant, because they’ll have
had a year to figure out the story of the pilot. But once they go
into production, they’ve got 10 days
to produce a script. And it’s really difficult to
maintain that level of quality. So if you have this source
material to fall back on, where the world-building
has all being done, you can essentially adapt. And that’s why that
story is working so well. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: Next. Oh, we have someone right there. And then we’ll go over here. AUDIENCE: Thank you. Hi, huge fan. Loved “Chernobyl,” I watched it. But also very curious, what was
it like working on “Fringe”? JARED HARRIS: Oh,
“Fringe,” yeah. “Fringe”– that that was
sort of a strange one, because the goalpost kept
shifting on that one. I loved working on it. Personally, one of my pet
hobbies is conspiracy theories. And that show is a conspiracy
theorist’s wet dream, basically. Because they– I mean
at the end of the story, the whole explanation
of the story is we live in a multi-verse,
and people from this other verse are crossing over
into this verse. And that the action of
crossing over into this verse has altered our timeline. These two worlds are going
to collide because you can’t occupy the same space. And there’s mad, mad
ideas in this show, including one where– there’s an animated
version of the show, or an episode,
which is fantastic. And it has got Spock in it. Leonard Nimoy, who I
just was such a huge fan. So when they said, Jared,
we want to bring you back for season four, I said only
if I’ve got scenes with Leonard Nimoy, I’ll come back. And they said, funny
enough, yeah, we’re talking to him at the moment. So yeah, the tricky thing
about something like that is, they didn’t know where
they were going to end up. And they were constantly trying
to make sure that they didn’t paint themselves into a corner. So that was one of the
reasons why you see them– they sort of– they
sort of back off from making a decision about
what’s happening in the story. But, yeah, it was great fun. I enjoyed that one. AUDIENCE: Thank you. JARED HARRIS: Plus that was
my favorite way of dying. That’s where I got cut in half
by a space time continuum. If you’re going to go,
you know what I mean? AUDIENCE: I have one as well. So I heard your answer
about the dialect in “The Expanse,” which I
thought was really interesting. And it sort of brought up
thinking about “Chernobyl.” And I thought
“Chernobyl” was one of the most brilliant
things I have ever seen. It’s always been a story
that was fascinating to me, just because I’m really
interested in disasters. But I mean, the combination
of the human element of it and everything else. And I really just thought
it was so brilliantly done. And so I started reading a lot
about it, and the production, and Craig’s thought process
for how he put it together. And one of the things I thought
was really interesting was his decision on accents,
where he basically was like, OK, well we thought about
trying to have everybody do a Russian accent and
then decided actually it took a lot of the focus away
from what we were trying to tell, and have everybody
sitting there going like, well, is this person
doing a good accent, is that person
doing a good accent. And that acting
itself can sometimes suffer when people are focusing
more on the accent than on their performance. And so I was kind of curious
what your thoughts were about his decision there, and
how you think about accents, in rolls where you’re
asked to do accents, versus roles where you’re just
told to use your normal voice. JARED HARRIS: Yeah,
it’s a tool you have available to describe
a character, which is telling a story. You’re one of the strands of
the whole pattern of the story. I’ve done lots of accents. I find them useful. I enjoy doing them. accents, are like
going to the gym. You have to– before
you’re going to need it, you have to start practicing. And you have to
practice every day. And for a dedicated
amount of time every day. So that you’re no longer
thinking about it. So by the time
you come to do it, your mind is, I
can focus on you, and I can notice
what you’re doing. I can see little
changes that you’re doing in the way you’re
playing the scene, so I can respond to you. And not have part of my head
going does this sound right, does this sound right. Because now I can’t pay
attention to what you’re doing. So he’s absolutely
right about that. Also, there’s no
such thing as a– first of all, one of
the things that people have been saying about that
is that, why aren’t they doing Russian accents? Well, it was in the Ukraine,
so they would actually have Ukrainian accents
and Belorussian accents. And then there’s no such thing
as a generic Ukrainian accent. It’s the same thing if you’re
doing an American accent. Well, you can’t just deploy
a generic American accent if you’re playing someone
from Kentucky or something. It would sound ridiculous. So then you’ve got to become
very specific about where every single character is from. Then you’ve got to make sure
that all those people have proper resources to be
able to pull it off. You probably have to have
10 dialect coaches on set. I mean– and then, the other
side of it is, did it matter? Were you still can get
the idea of the story. And as Stalin’s
Skarsgard said at Tribeca when someone asked a question–
someone said, well, why aren’t they all speaking in accents. They should all be. Stone said, you’ve seen
“Hamlet” many times, and it hasn’t bothered
you that that’s in English and that they’re not
speaking with Danish accents. You know, it really
comes from the point of view of where you’re
looking at the story from. So the idea was– there’s actually been some
really good Twitter responses about that, about explaining
about being inside the story and where your
perspective is coming from the story, as opposed
from being outside of it. But yeah, at the end of the
day, they made a decision. And it was– I was fine with it. AUDIENCE: Thank you. JARED HARRIS: You still
have to think about, though, what sort of accent,
because that wasn’t the end of the accent conversation. Because then the
thing is, well, we’ve got English actors who
are going to be doing it. So I think one of the things you
start to notice is that the– weirdly, the way
it broke down was, a lot of the people
who were representing the political class,
they were quite often– either they were Swedish
or Danish actors, who were speaking English
with their own accent. A lot of the scientists end up– ended up being people
from a background like myself, which is
essentially middle class. And then a lot of the people
who were playing the workers, they ended up being
regional actors. So they either had Scottish
accents or Geordie accents. So they actually ended up
being a differentiation made using accents in that. But they just weren’t Russian,
or Ukrainian, or Belorussian. AUDIENCE: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Just like to impart
a strange moment of flattery, in that we have a
tool here at Google called Pryce, which we use
to document our internal [INAUDIBLE] JARED HARRIS: With a Y? AUDIENCE: Yeah, we
document our [INAUDIBLE] So we call it Pryce. JARED HARRIS: Is that good? It didn’t work out
so well for him. AUDIENCE: No, no, it didn’t. JARED HARRIS: Has it got your
own little special embezzling app on the side there. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JARED HARRIS:
That’s what he gets. My wife’s laughing at that. Well, that’s why– that’s
what he got done for. AUDIENCE: It’s been interesting
to follow on Twitter, folks who live near the
region or in the Ukraine respond to some
of the accuracies. But you must get loads of these. I’ve only discovered
a couple of them. I’m wondering if you can
share like a couple anecdotes about the folks who live
there, or survivors, who kind of responded with like,
yeah, it happened this way, or no, it didn’t
happen this way. JARED HARRIS: An amazing
amount of response has been about how accurate
it was, down to the license plates. One of the things that
Craig had in his script was that whenever you
see anything written, it was going to be in Cyrillic. And that what you saw written
in Cyrillic made sense. I think one of the things
people were talking about, in one of those– I think it’s an action film
that took place in Russia, and that they had cut to
something that was supposedly some Russian sentence. And it was complete
gobbledygook, you know. But I don’t know
why they used that. But yes, the response
has been about how the detail and the authenticity
was actually spot on. So that part’s been amazing. I mean, there’s a
newspaper– the “Moscow Times” is raving over it. The Ukrainian first response–
children of first responders have been responding and
saying how refreshing it was to see this story
told with this kind of level of authenticity towards
somebody else’s culture. And that it’s– and added
to they’re response. Because I suppose, in
a sense, I mean, it’s– you’re honoring
their experience. So mostly pretty good,
I’d say, like 99.9%. You can’t get all– you
can never win all of them. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: We’ll
take one more question from the audience. AUDIENCE: So little story. I actually watched
“Chernobyl” with my parents. And my dad knew Legasov. JARED HARRIS: Oh, really? AUDIENCE: Yes, he did. JARED HARRIS: Uh-oh. AUDIENCE: Uh-oh, I know,
little family secret. But he was extremely grateful
for your portrayal of him. So I wanted to pass along
a very big thank you. JARED HARRIS: Thank you. AUDIENCE: And also
my question was, when you’re filming something
with such heavy material, do you ever find it difficult
to separate and actually build camaraderie on set? Or does that era of
heaviness kind of persist? JARED HARRIS: Yeah, you
have camaraderie on set, certainly with the other
actors, because you’re all going through it
together and you’re trying to help each other out. You help each other run lines. You know someone’s got
a big day coming up and you’ll sit
there and ask them if they want to go
through it, and you’ll help them get it
into their heads. Really, when things are
very heavy like that, you’re looking for
opportunities to laugh. Because the acting
muscle is a nerve, and if you keep pressing on
the nerve, the nerve goes dead. And it’ll no longer
function for you. So you’ve really got to– you have to switch your
mind to something else. Obviously, if someone is
trying to stay in the zone, and they’re trying to make sure
that they’re going to deliver, because it’s about to
happen fairly soon, you don’t distract them. But yeah, often you find that
the heavier the material is, the more you try and
joke about it afterwards, or when you’re on a
break or whatever. Comedy is a very
serious business. Yeah, there’s not much
laughing on a comedy set. I’m just going to give you one
quote, from Edmund Kean, who was an English actor back
in the 1800’s I think. And the famous quote of
his, his last words were– he’s lying on his death
bed, and somebody asked him how he is, how he feels. And he says, “Dying is
easy, comedy is hard.” JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: I do want– I would normally end there,
but I do want to ask, because you have a couple
of projects coming up. JARED HARRIS: Oh, yeah. JENNIFER VADEN
BARTH: What can you tell us about “Morbius” and the
new Amazon series, “Carnival Row”? JARED HARRIS: Well,
“Morbius” is the Spider-Man, it’s in the Spider-Man universe. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: That’s
a switch for you, you know, cartoons. JARED HARRIS: No, no,
it’s not cartoons. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Oh sorry, but comics. JARED HARRIS: Yeah. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH: You’re
going into that world. JARED HARRIS: It’s in the
villain world, like “Venom.” So “Morbius” is a super villain
in the Spider-Man universe, being played by Jared Leto. And I can’t tell you too much
about it, other than that, because someone will shoot
me when I walk out of here. And then “Carnival
Row” is a fantasy story that’s going to be– I think it’s airing
at the end of August– I think it is– on Amazon. And that is a story based
around a kind of sort of film noir concept
of a detective, played by Orlando Bloom,
investigating a murder. And the trail of that murder
sort of unravels the whole– leads him deep into
the social structure and political structure
of the world that he’s in. The world he’s in is this
fantasy world that’s based on– it’s almost sort of based
on early 19th century, 18th century European history,
and with the discovery and exploitation
of the new world. But in this story,
the new world is populated by fantasy creatures. And there’s proxy wars going on. So they’re flooding
from that world and coming to the
old world, which is creating pressures, which
will probably sound familiar. JENNIFER VADEN BARTH:
Well, it sounds exciting. It also sounds like
we’re going to get to see more of you, which
is what I think we all want. So thank you so much, Jared,
for spending time with us today. JARED HARRIS: Thank you.

36 thoughts on “Jared Harris: “HBO’s Chernobyl, The Crown and Mad Men” | Talks at Google

  1. All of those shows are amazing. I have never had any interest in the British Royal Family but The Crown is awesome. Mad Men is obviously a classic and I watched it on basic cable as it was airing. I want to re watch it when I have a free month available. Chernobyl is probably the best mini series I've watched all year. It contains the most affective kind of tension that a great horror/thriller can produce. It gets all the human relationships perfect. Really a great piece of media that was so powerful and affecting that I'm in no hurry to re watch it.

    What does the outside look like?

  2. Is the joke when they were talking about the robot, and he's like well not that one, and Boris is like I know not that one?

  3. There are many assholes saying that Chernobyl is better than Game of thrones. What a fucking morons. First of all about HBO shit movie, that they cannot show real Soviet Man. All conversation are westernized. Soviet people just could not say that like , "if you do not explain me nuclear reactor or I will through you of helicopter". WTF? Or naked miners? There are documentary movie on You Tube to compare. Please take a time to see real heroes, not that shit movie.

  4. The serie is so inaccurate that feels like an insult to the spectator. FMI: "HBOs Chernobyl: BUSTED!" https://youtu.be/SsdLDFtbdrA

  5. I remember watching the trailer of Chernobyl and thinking "wow that trailer looks so good but so scary at the same time" and I was like surely the actual show won't be like this," and I was right, it was even better and scarier.

  6. I find it funny when people complain about the english accents used in Chernobyl but I've not heard anyone complain about the Sound of Music, I don't think the nazis and the von trapp family all had english accents…

  7. This was a great interview. Ms. Vaden is great at asking the right questions that got amazing responses. More of her, please. 🙂

  8. Nice talk with one of the greatest actors in the business.
    Google people can be cool when they aren't trying to destroy democracy.

  9. Jared deserves an Emmy for his performance in Chernobyl. This guy's the real deal….. he can, just with his facial expressions, portray an incredible sense of emotion. That's to say nothing of his body language and vocal tone. The dude deserves a big win!

  10. He owned it in The Terror as well. Man is a dynamo. Wish he had talked about that role.

    I didn't know who he was before watching The Terror (I never saw Mad Men). Watching the show, I thought, "He looks like Richard Harris. Sounds like him too."

    Then a few episodes on, "He REALLY looks like Richard Harris. Sounds like him too. Must be because he's Irish." (The captain he portrayed on The Terror was Irish, so I assumed he was as well.)

    Well…now I know why I thought that lol. And even though he was raised in London, he nailed the Irish accent for obvious reasons.

  11. As someone who's always been interested in Chernobyl and been there I thought the HBO/sky's Chernobyl is some of the best television drama ever. I wanted to watch the terror but it's not free on Amazon Prime. Only seen one episode as can't afford the whole series yet but it's very good. Shows like the terror or especially Chernobyl should be on terrestrial tv for the masses to watch but terrestrial tv channels are cheap skates and rather have reality TV shows

  12. Jared Harris on Chernobyl being best rated HBO series after Game of Thrones 'Coming for ya. We're gonna come for that Number 1 slot'. And it will, given the last season of GOT. After watching this show how does 9.5 (as close to perfect as it gets) sound?

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