How William Jackson Harper embraced the fear of romantic comedies for love life

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The second season of HBO Max Love life introduced a major change, swapping her hapless heroine Darby (Anna kendrick) for Marcus Watkins, a “happily” married book editor played by William Jackson Harper. But the spirit of the show has remained more or less the same.

“It’s almost like every season is its own movie,” said Love life creator and co-showrunner Sam boyd on Zoom, joined by co-showrunners Brigitte Bedard and Rachelle Williams-BenAry. “Personally, I think season two is like Evil Dead II, where the sequel is essentially a remake, only better.

As Boyd is quick to make it clear that he’s “very proud” of the first season, he might be on to something. Season two of the HBO romantic comedy series Max has a 94% review rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the first season has 65%. And a lot of that credit goes to Harper, who plays Marcus as he goes through 10 different romantic chapters of his life, from the end of his marriage to a quick threesome with unforeseen consequences and everything in between as he goes through life. launches in New York meetings and figures himself in the process.

Neurotic and grounded, bookish but deceptively suave, Harper anchors the show and breathes new life into the revamped second season. Making a name for herself on NBC The right place and captivated the public in projects like Environment and The Underground Railroad, Harper has become crucial to the entire effort of Love lifeis the second season.

“Sam just had a Will’s vision of it all,” Bedard said, “and was like,“ we’ve got to have it. We have to build it around it. Boyd agreed, citing the unusually high demands placed on an actor tasked with directing a 10-episode series without any side stories to lighten the load. “I think most of the cast couldn’t be the leader of this show,” Boyd said. “I remember when her name came up and I was like, that’s the answer.”

After being approached by Boyd, Harper devoured the first season and found it surprisingly compelling, especially considering that he is, in his own words, “not a big consumer of romantic comedy.” “I watched the first season and I thought, this is a good show sneakily,” Harper told me over the phone. He remembers inviting Boyd to his backyard in Los Angeles on a tour of mezcal infused drinks (“They were very good,” Boyd recalls) and starting the process of creating Marcus. Over the course of a few months, the duo produced a handout filled with Marcus’ character traits that Harper said “changed quite significantly” before they started filming.

“[It was] an unusual situation where we were all building it together, ”Boyd says, revealing that they picked Harper early in the process, before a writers’ room, screenplay, or even a general story arc had been put together. “I think working with Will and having him downstairs has been really helpful.”

For Harper, however, becoming a starring role in a romantic comedy was not an automatic solution. “I’m not the most romantic person like Will isn’t, Harper clarified. “Any kind of showing affection is always a little difficult for me.” The show’s vulnerable and romantic scenes, he says, came with a bit of terror. “What’s the way to do it that’s not the way you’d expect it to be?” He wondered. “I’m just emotionally a back-footed guy so in those times when Marcus is very emotionally up-front it’s always been tough for me. “

But some of those scenes emerged as her favorites from the entire series. “I think there is something special about the scene when Marcus and Mia first meet,” said Harper, referring to the cute encounter between her character and Jessica williams‘s Mia in front of a bar during the pilot episode. “It was really early in the shoot – I think it was day one or day two – and we actually took a while to get it done,” Harper said. “The good thing about working with Sam, Bridget and Rachelle is that they don’t just try to put themselves on the stage and move on. They say to me, ‘Let’s play with it, let it breathe and do. what he should do. “

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