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“But I found myself often pretty triggered by a lot of the things that we were recreating and making in ‘The Underground Railroad,’ so it was actually kind of nice to go to something that was a bit lighter in order to shake it off,” he continues. “It was nice to put that heaviness aside for a second, because it’s a pretty harrowing journey. It’s good to be able to step back from it for a second and just take a breath.”
In Barry Jenkins’ “The Underground Railroad,” Harper plays Royal, a free man Cora (Thuso Mbedu) meets as she escapes slavery in the deep south.
“Royal is someone who takes a particular interest in Cora on her journey,” Harper says, afraid to divulge more for fear of spoiling the experience for audiences.
“It’s one of those stories that it’s best if you really go in not knowing anything,: he teases. “Of course, people are still going to read the book and have some expectations; but if you have not read the book, I thoroughly encourage watching this and just taking it in.
The actor dove into the project similarly. “Getting to work with Barry, that’s been a dream of mine,” Harper says, sharing that he’s been a fan of the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” filmmaker since his 2008 feature debut “Medicine for Melancholy.” “I just wanted to get into that brain and try to understand it.”
Of the series itself, believes there are lessons for the todays’ audiences to sit with, as well as a challenge to stand up against injustices.
“Not everyone was down with abolition. Even if they didn’t like the institution of slavery, some people were just like, ‘Well this is the way it is,’” he explains. “I think that a lot of us think that we would just take our modern sensibilities back and just be like ‘No, this is wrong and we’re gonna fight until it stops.’ And that’s just not true.”
“There’s a lot that — even today — we just let go and don’t really get too involved with, even if we do have strong opinions on it, and there’s some people that really form zero opinions on certain injustices,” he continues.”My hope is that people will go into this universe that Barry has created, and start to ask themselves questions, and start to get angry, and think about who would you have been had you seen these sorts of things going on and be honest with yourself.”