British actor Harrison Osterfield is branching out.
While you may recognize Harrison Osterfield’s face from Netflix’s Sherlock Holmes spinoff, The Irregulars or George Clooney’s Catch-22 mini-series from 2019, over the last few years, the British actor has proven himself to be a jack of multiple, if not all, trades. Although, he hasn’t always felt that way. When academics proved not to be his strong suit, Harrison sought solace in the arts. What started as a hobby quickly became a possible career path that led Osterfield to The Brit School and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. From there, he landed some short film roles and worked as an assistant on a few of the Marvel films, happy to learn the industry while waiting for his own star to rise. It didn’t take long before he booked a guest role in Catch-22, followed by the series regular Leopold in The Irregulars.
Like his two most well-known characters, Harrison is earnest and well-intentioned. Today, he is further honing his craft and trying his hand at a few other ventures. Alongside acting, he is also a model and the co-founder of two new companies. The first, Carbon Fingerprint, hosts a climate change initiative which focuses on the energy individuals create with their social media usage. With Hama Rum, the actor embraces a more luxurious side of his personality as he helps craft and curate the premium, UK-based spirit. The actor approaches each endeavor with care, time, and attention, traits which are easily showcased in his work on screen, in photographs and among the ideals set forth by both of his growing brands.
Taking time out of his busy schedule, Harrison sits down with 1883 Magazine to discuss his professional journey, how Carbon Fingerprint got its start, his favorite way to drink Hama Rum and more.
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While now you have your hand in a couple of different areas and industries, acting is your primary focus. What drew you to the craft?
I went to a very academic-based boarding school and quickly found that those weren’t for me. I had to find other ways I could excel. I fell into acting because of that. The real story is that there was a girl I quite fancied who joined the drama club. I thought, “Well, maybe if I join the drama club and impress her, I can take her out on a date.” To sum up the story, she wasn’t interested at all, but acting seems to be going okay. [laughter] I’ve always found it fun. When I left the boarding school, I went to a performing arts school for college and then to drama school. I haven’t looked back since then.
It sounds like it worked out for you in one way, if not in the other.
Yeah. It seems to have, anyway.
As you mentioned, you attended The BRIT School and LAMDA. What was the most helpful thing you learned during that period?
That I needed to be both confident and vulnerable. Going to a school like The BRIT School, where everyone seems to be a complete extrovert, you have to battle to be seen. I was a shy kid. I’m still a shy kid. That atmosphere was a good lesson in itself. But I also learned that with confidence, you still need to be vulnerable. Your best work can surface when you let everything show because you’re open and not shutting any emotional doors. You have to have the confidence to showcase your emotions, and that’s where truth comes into it. You learn quicker as well. If you stay in your safe zone, you’re constantly going to be doing the same things. You have to break out of your shell to test the waters. Sometimes it might not work, but sometimes it’s not that hard or that bad. So, I’ll keep trying to do that.
Would you say once you break through that comfort zone once, it’s easier to do it a second time?
Oh, 100%. But I think it’s always a test. The fun part is seeing the results from challenging yourself.
After school, you wore a few different hats within the industry. You did assistant work. You have a couple of stunt credits. Then, after some short films, you landed both Catch-22 in 2018 and The Irregulars in 2021. Looking back, how has this progression shaped you and the way you view your career?
It taught me that the right opportunities can come at such short notice. It’s hard to plan anything in this industry. It’s not linear at all. I give my best in every audition or every meeting because you never know what will come around the corner. So far, it has been a fantastic progression. I have worked with some very cool people and have experiences I won’t forget. Who knows what’s next?
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You also have a very versatile resume in the project scopes and genres. Are there any types of roles that you’re particularly keen to tackle in the future?
I want to play a lot of darker roles. Everyone always sees me as this nice guy, and there’s usually some romantic arc, or my characters are dying. I’d love to play to the darker side of things. I did a theater show after drama school, where I played a serial killer. I’d come out after the show, and my family and friends in the audience would say, “I don’t know if I trust you anymore.” [laughter] Hopefully, that means I was doing a good job. So I’d love to be able to do that on screen and show a different side of myself.
Do you like the atmosphere of shooting a film better than TV, or do you find the theater is where you feel most at home?
Growing up in theater and doing that first, I’ve always enjoyed the rehearsal period that comes with that. It’s so tough when you get given a film role, you get there on the day, and then you’ve got to do it straight away. I like to have a bit of preparation. With the TV series I’ve done, I’ve been lucky to have time to talk to the director, see his vision, and be part of an overall collaborative process. But having a bit of time to lock into the material, whether it’s in a series or a theater job, is definitely what I prefer.
In 2021, you told MOOD Magazine you wanted to get more involved in sustainable action and climate change. Now, you have with your organization Carbon Fingerprint. Can you tell me a little about the service and the process of starting it?
The idea came from my friends always talking about the impact of social media on the world. My experience with it has been relatively pleasant and everyone’s been very supportive, but there’s still a dark side to it. Not only is social media and our usage of phones potentially destructive to people’s mental health, but it’s also destroying the planet. We built Carbon Fingerprint with the idea being that the time we spend on our phones and social media – should be time well spent and should be used to make a positive impact on the world around us. So our tool calculates and removes carbon created by your phone usage. It is something that I am passionate about because I’m active on social media. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to do my bit to make the world greener and this is the perfect way to do that. Hopefully, others feel the same way.
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When I think about sustainable action and climate change, I never really think of social media and the internet playing into that.
I didn’t, either. I had no idea about it. When Cristiano Ronaldo posts a photo, it generates the same amount of energy as a small city because of the hidden energy demand created by everyone liking, re-sharing or commenting on his post. It’s unbelievable, and no one’s really talking about it. Our mission is to bring it to light so that people can do their bit to do better.
How can people get involved?
It’s not quite ready yet. We’ve taken a lot of time to develop it. I’m really keen to release it, but I want to get it right and get it to the best place possible. Hopefully, people will be able to calculate their own carbon fingerprints within a couple of weeks but can also follow us on Instagram if you want to keep up to date with progress.
I know it’s a good thing to know, and I’m excited to know, but I’m also scared. [laughter]
I know it can be overwhelming. But as I said, no one’s perfect. So if you can do your little bit, for the price of buying a coffee every month and offset your phone and, if you’re a creator, your social media posts as well. We’ll be building towards something great.
If you’re aware of what you’re doing, you can find ways to offset those things. The internet’s not going to go away. As a society, we’re not suddenly going to decide it’s terrible for the planet and stop using it. So, I do think this is something that people need to be aware of. It’s a very cool thing that you’ve got going on.
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Do you have any advice for people who have figured out other issues that aren’t at the height of society’s awareness and want to start their own sustainability campaigns?
Carbon Fingerprint came from my friends and I going to the pub and talking about the issues we saw and trying to come up with solutions, so I would say, get talking to people and try to find like-minded individuals who care about the same things you do. I’m lucky that I have a group of friends who are very aligned with what we feel is suitable for the planet. You have to remember that it’s not just the big action of one person. It’s a small action of a lot of people. If you can figure out what that small action needs to be and get people involved, it can have a massive impact.
Somehow, while you do all these other things, you’ve also found time to co-found a rum company, Hama Rum.
[laughter] I’m drinking it right now, actually.
For you, what is unique about this specific spirit?
Again, it came from a conversation. My friend and I could name 10 premium vodka brands, 10 premium tequila brands, 10 gin brands, and then when we got into the subject of rum, we couldn’t do it. Apart from the lower-end bottles, there aren’t any widely known rum names. We found a gap in the market, so we filled it with something we think is a premium product. Rum has a very traditional background. It’s quite a masculine drink in some ways. We wanted to create a unisex brand that is accessible to more people but also tastes unreal. It’s distilled in the Caribbean but is produced and crafted in the UK, which makes it a UK-based product. Plus, it’s also really fun to put on loads of fun events and get people involved.
What’s your go-to way to drink it?
I’m having a rum and tonic now. Everyone I tell makes the same face you are, like “nah.” [laughter] Do you like gin and tonics?
I like flavored tonics, but tonic water by itself, no, thank you. I will get a gin and tonic out but I cannot make one myself.
I have perfected the rum and tonic with a bit of lime. A whole other thing is that not many people in my friendship group and demographic drink rum. It’s such a better spirit than vodka. It has more character and depth and is an excellent fun alternative to something else.
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I promise to try it next time I am in the UK. Within your career, you’ve also branched into modeling. How did that come about?
It was my mom. [laughter] My mom kept saying, “You’ve got to model. You could definitely do it.” I was like, ”Mom, you’re bias. I’m not good-looking enough to be a model.” But then, I got in touch with a friend who is a designer. I thought he wanted me to buy his clothes, so I told him, “I’m sorry, man. It’s out of my price range. I can’t buy anything.” He said, “No, no. I want to see what it looks like on you.” I did a few shoots, and that kicked things off. I love fashion. I like dressing up in cool outfits and things that are a bit different. It’s a chance to express yourself creatively. With outlandish clothes, it almost feels like a character I’m playing.
Does being in front of a camera in that capacity scratch the same itch as acting does?
It’s similar, but it’s a different kind of thing. In a way, it’s trying to tell the story without any dialogue. I look at it from a character aspect instead of just me wearing a cool jacket or something like that. It’s fun to play around in. With photography, you can set an atmosphere and ambiance for one still. That’s exciting to me. You can create a world from one photo instead of filming in one for eight months. Plus, it’s instant. I love acting, but the final product takes a long time to come out, and you have no idea if it will be any good. With photography, you know immediately.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve gotten to wear so far?
I just did an event with Paco Rabanne. At the time, they didn’t have any men’s wear. So, I asked, “Okay, what do you want me to wear?” They had this chainmail corset. It was so cool. It looked amazing, But I’ll tell you what, it’s hard to get off at 6:30 in the morning the next day when you’re the only one there. [laughter]
You’ve got to love those moments when you think, “I’m going to die in this.”
Or they just become your new pyjamas, which the designers don’t love as an idea.
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I bet they don’t. What kind of clothes make you feel the most like yourself?
Probably suits and smart apparel. I grew up in a family where we always have family occasions. We always have black-tie dinners to try to spice life up. It feels like I’m back to just being with my family when I wear that.
What a cool thing to do as a family. That’s fun. With all of these various areas that you have branched into, what do you want to be known for at the end of the day?
I suppose I’d like to be known as a truthful creative. All the things I’ve done–or want to do–come from passions that I’ve had since I was a kid. It’s very easy to be materialistic in this world. It’s easy to point your finger and say, “Oh, they’re just doing that because of this,” but these are all things I’ve wanted to do for a while and that I want to do well and be proud of. No one can take that away from me.
If you come at everything from that place, you can’t make a wrong decision.
Exactly. My foundations are stronger. There are bound to be people that will question me or disagree with what I’m doing, but as long as I can be truthful to myself, I’m good. If I’m not, then I’ll stop.
Lastly, what’s next for you?
Something I shot last year is hopefully coming out this Summer. I’ve been plugging away in the background, auditioning. I’m confident that the next thing I land will be something I’m really excited about.
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Is there a dream role that you hope comes into play in the future?
I think one day I’ll change James Bond’s Martini to a rum martini right now. [laughter] That might be a bit far-fetched, but I think that could be a role I look towards.
They change James Bond enough that you’ll probably have a few chances throughout your career. Plus, you can package Hama Rum into the deal when you audition.
Exactly. I’ve got all the product placement ready to go. [laughter]
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View the PDF feature and editorial here.
Interview Sydney Bolen
Photography Kirk Truman