We are seeing a lot of veteran character actor Jared Harris recently. He is coming off his successful turn as Valery Legasov in HBO’s sleeper hit of the summer Chernobyl, a dramatization of the events surrounding the 1986 nuclear power reactor explosion in Russia. Harris was also recently nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for his performance of Legasov. In all, the HBO show garnered a whopping 19 nominations. I hope it wins all 19 of those statues. It deserves every one of them.
Harris recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about Chernobyl and his character as well as the dynamics between Legasov and Stellan Skarsgard’s character Boris Shcherbina. Both Legasov and Shcherbina were real people who suffered tremendous consequences both socially and medically because of their job in the exclusion zone.
Legasov was famously expunged from the narrative and because of Chernobyl, he is now taking his rightful place back in the echelon of history. Harris said, “I always do a lot of research, even if the character’s not a biographical character and of course this one was, but there actually wasn’t a lot of information on him because the Soviets actually succeeded in scrubbing him from the narrative.”
He continued: “What I did see about him, I could see that, as an archetype, he was quite similar to Stellan [Skarsgard]’s character, and that was starting to bump against what [creator] Craig [Mazin] wanted from that relationship, which was a contrast between the two. And I needed to occupy a different space to the space that Stellan was going to occupy. So, my impression of the real Legasov was that he was actually a traditional Russian alpha personality. He came across as actually very confident and he occupied his space, but that didn’t work really for what Craig needed to happen in our story and the journey that our two characters were going to take.”
Harris also told THR that Mazin took different writing techniques into each episode to make the scripts feel fresh. Mazin has a background in comedy and also wrote The Huntsman: Winter’s War. He also produces a podcast called Scriptnotes that he hosts with John August. “Craig is a very, very smart writer,” Harris said when asked about the dichotomy between Legasov and Shcherbina.
Harris also said, “That particular thing he employs is the bromance genre, if you like.”
Which, surprisingly, works when you look at the two characters side by side. Legasov is the socially awkward one and Shcherbina is the one in charge. They disliked each other at first and had some spats through the series, but they put aside their differences to achieve the task at hand.
“If they’re going to succeed, they’re going to need to rely on one another, and then they become bonded by the fact that they are the only two people who have consistently gone through this whole experience and that they’re sharing the same fate, which is that their lives are going to be drastically cut short because of it. And they can’t leave. So, they know that that is the shared fate they’re going to have.”
Chernobyl is available to stream on HBO Go. Also, check out The Chernobyl Podcast, also streaming on HBO Go or wherever you get your podcasts. Harris can be seen next in Amazon Prime’s Carnival Row.
Shelby started writing at the age of 13 and has been hooked ever since. She's currently going to school at ATU for Creative Writing and English with a minor in Film Studies. She hopes to one day be a professor of film, a film critic, and a screenwriter. (Can you tell she likes the movies?)
She hopes to walk the red carpet one day. She contributes a long list of friends, co-workers, professors, and writers as the inspiration for her dreams and goals.
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