Growing up in New Orleans as the son of two musicians, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., seemed destined for musical stardom. Instead, the 23-year-old veered into a totally different creative field: acting.
In 2013, Harrison, Jr. appeared in bit roles in two major studio films, 12 Years a Slave and Ender’s Game. Just five years later, and the rising star is a leading man in two of the year’s most anticipated, timely films: Reinaldo Marcus Green’s police brutality drama Monsters and Men, and the resonant young adult drama Monster — both of which premiered at Sundance and star the actor as a young black man entangled in the complex racial socio-politics of America.
They’re heavy roles that tackle powerful, complicated topics, but Harrison, Jr., is up to the task. “It’s so important for me as an artist, choosing the roles that I’ve chosen, to be careful and know that when they say cut, it’s over. I get to go back home and remind myself, I have a beautiful family, wonderful friends, and everything is okay. Otherwise, you’re just wallowing in it,” he shares.
Though 2018 may find the grounded young actor in the midst of a career breakout, he’s just getting started leaving his mark. “I just finished a movie called Gully with Jacob Latimore and Charlie Plummer. It’s a dark film, like Girl, Interrupted meets Funny Games. Monsters and Men is out October 5 and is loosely based on the Eric Garner story. There’s also Assassination Nation—which is like a social-media Crucible—as well as a movie called Luce with Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer. It speaks to topics that are important to me, like not allowing people to put you in a box.”