Tom Rhys Harries
For someone skeptical about social media & our dependence on technology, actor Tom Rhys Harries might’ve found his dream role in Apple TV’s Suspicion.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely viewing it on your phone or computer. Once you’re finished, you might post a snarky tweet on Twitter, upload a photo to Instagram to get some likes, or even laugh at a viral meme. All of these things—and many of the other activities we do via our social devices—have become second nature to the point where a lot of us don’t even know if the things we are reading (and sharing) are truthful. This is the space where Suspicion, the latest thrilling drama from Apple TV starring Tom Rhys Harries, navigates and explores. Its premise is simple: the son of well-known businesswoman Katherine Newman [played by Uma Thurman] is abducted at a hotel in New York by who authorities believe to be four British nationals. Quickly, the kidnapping goes viral and images are disseminated on the web with everyone having their own comment—whether it be funny or dimwitted—about the abduction, and how those messages shape everyone’s personal and collective version of the truth.
Tom Rhys Harries was drawn to the project first by his character—the enigmatic Eddie Walker—but then by the show’s themes of truth, the different versions of it that we share with each other, and how technology plays a role in our public and private selves. Like with his past roles, Harries approaches his character with an inquisitive mind and a desire to understand what makes him tick. What makes Harries tick though is a determination and focus to see things through and, with that mindset, later this year he’ll find himself gracing the West End in The Seagull, which was initially shut down in 2020 after three shows due to COVID.
1883 Magazine’s Kelsey Barnes chats with Tom Rhys Harries about filming Suspicion, his upcoming West End play The Seagull, what character he’d like to star in the Dune sequel, and more.
Congrats on the release of Suspicion!
Thank you! It’s taken forever to come out and I’m excited about it. It’s set up in a way that seems to be a pretty straightforward whodunit, but then it gets into these heavy themes of perception, truth, accountability, and social media’s role in all of those themes. It looks at the different truths that we say to each other and what we choose, and don’t choose, to share with the wider world.
The themes are pretty topical but especially for you, as an actor, because there’s always this divide between the public and private self. It must be interesting to dive into those particular themes for you especially.
Yeah, totally. It’s something you’re aware of. I don’t want to be sharing all of my private life with people and since we’re doing an interview right now, I would say that’s me engaging with the “public” side of myself, I guess. I’m not sure how much it [social media] aids the doing of the work apart from raising awareness of a project, you know? To be doing loads of press has me feeling very outward. I’m on the fence about social media at the moment. I don’t know whether I want to log off for a bit. It’s still something I’m figuring out.
Yeah, even with the 10+ years of social media, we’re still figuring out if we want to tweet or post something because we don’t know the layers and ramifications of it.
It’s hard because I’m not sure we’ve adapted as fast as the tech that we’ve grown up with. We don’t really know how to mentally grapple with people knowing all of our business, especially for kids growing up online. No one gave us the proper tools for it. Do you remember AOL?
Yes, except I was more of a MSN messenger girl.
MSN Messenger was my jam. I used it all the time. Remember the status updates? And not being able to use the phone if we wanted to use the internet?
We really struggled back then, kids don’t know how good they have it!
That’s exactly it, though. Nobody before the internet was hoping, “Oh god, I wish I could Zoom Canada right now.” Now, if we can’t get ahold of someone instantly through the web we lose our minds. Regardless, I think the show is going to hit a pretty specific zeitgeist.
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You’ve been acting for over a decade and as someone also born in ‘92, it feels like we are hurtling towards our 30s. When you look back at the last 10 years, what stands out to you?
It’s kind of flown by and not flown by at the same time? I think I’m less idealistic than I used to be, I just feel very fortunate to still be in the industry because it never feels promised. An older, more established actor said to me, “You don’t have a career in this game, you just have a succession of jobs if you’re lucky.” It rings true. I know that even though 10 years have passed, I still can’t grow a better beard. [Laughs] You get older and your interests and priorities change and I think that comes through in the work, too. Once you start selecting projects and choosing how to spend your time, there’s a bit of a ripple effect. I don’t even know if you observe it or if it happens sort of subconsciously, but it’s there.
With that in mind, something I love about your career is that you seem like you want to get into anything & everything — from White Lines to Jekyll and Hyde to Britannia. Is it important to you as an actor building his craft to constantly change things up?
There is no specific design; you can create upon reflection and you can create a narrative out of a really messy sequence of events or syllabuses we’re talking about here. But, when it’s happening, you’re just trying to get from A to B. It just happens. I was lucky that background is in theatre because I went to drama school. I think it’s hard to dive into stage work if you’ve only been in TV and film. The fact that I had awareness and had done a bit of theatre really early on is beneficial to me because it means that I have the experience of doing it and can apply it to my next role. You’re free to jump between mediums as a form of variety as well, including different genres within those mediums. That’s the nature of the gig, isn’t it? Unless you’re on a serial drama or a soap, which are really amazing for those who can do it, but I just love having variety in my work. It gives me freedom.
I was going to ask you if your techniques change depending on whether you’re on stage or on camera.
It kind of does, but if you strip it all back, it all comes down to prep. I love prep. Sometimes you don’t have the prep time that you’d like to have in TV and film—sometimes you just have to turn up and be that character immediately. Whereas on stage, you can transform a bit more because in theatre there’s more of a suspension of disbelief. Sometimes it’s really hit or miss; some alchemy happens and it feels like it’s right. On the other hand, sometimes you try your best and you do all the prep in the world and it just doesn’t click. All you can do is show up. Stanley Kubrick asked Alfred Hitchcock what the hardest part of directing was and Hitchcock said, “getting out of the car in the morning.” I’m not comparing myself to him by any means, but the best thing you can possibly do is turn up because something is going to happen either way.
I love that you brought up prep work because I wanted to ask if you had any rituals or did anything special to flesh out your characters.
It’s not set in stone, but generally speaking, if it requires me to think, “I can really dig into this,” I will. I’ll make playlists because I love music and any kind of art or iconography that you know, you can attribute to a character. It’s fun when you do it without actually trying to achieve anything. You just hope that it goes into your back brain so that when you’re on set, it all feels informed. I actually have a script book that I work on, I’ll grab it for you to see now.
[Tom goes to a cupboard and returns with a black book filled with pages of images, scribbles, pasted artwork, and other pertinent details relevant to his characters]
That’s amazing! I haven’t seen anything like this yet.
Thank you! It’s just a discipline that works for me.
So you just kind of annotate what you’re kind of feeling and experiencing while looking at these images?
Yeah, because the script is the foundation and it all comes back to it. Let’s say you’re doing a period piece and your character is really intense and rock-n-roll, I could be listening to Sid Vicious. It doesn’t have to be directly linked to the time or whatever, it just has to carry a feeling, you know?
Yeah, whatever helps you get into that mindset of what that character is feeling regardless of the period that you’re meant to be in.
Exactly because you’re going to be listening to it through your wireless headphones and they definitely didn’t have those in the time of period pieces! [Laughs]
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When you get a script for a show like Suspicion and a character like Eddie Walker, what excites you most about the project? Is it the writing, who is attached to it, or something else?
For this, I want to say it was the character of Eddie. He’s quite enigmatic and very disruptive which is always quite fun. I can be more playful with it, I suppose. Also, I knew Chris Long, the writer, and knew his work and loved The Americans for a bunch of years. Matthew Reese was in that and since he’s another Welsh actor. I follow his career and look up to him. This was one of the first things that came about that was shooting again after we’d been in lockdown for six months, so I hadn’t worked in ages. I felt like Suspicion was a project that ticked a lot of boxes and I got to work with Apple which is incredible.
Yeah, you’ve worked with Netflix and now Apple. Amazon Prime is next.
I think I’ve given Apple my pocket money for the best parts of the decades because of my phone so I thought it was time for them to repay me.
[Laughs] Love it. I binged the entire series over two days. Although you and I both know what happens to Eddie in season 1, without giving anything away, knowing what you do about his arc, what is one piece of advice you wish you could give him?
Wow, that’s a tough question. It’s tough to answer that without alluding to his fate. As far as advice, I would say just ride the wave, man. He’s quite eager, isn’t he? I think his ambition is greater than his ability. Maybe he shouldn’t extend his reach.
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People will get it once they see the whole thing! I want to talk to you about Chekhov’s The Seagull. I know before COVID you only got to do five performances into a three-month run and this summer—almost two years later—you’re finally going to be able to see it through! Does it feel like you’re in a different headspace than you were back 2 years ago?
It felt like I was confused pre-pandemic so it just brought it out more! [Laughs] In all seriousness, I think once we get back into rehearsals and the play gets going it’ll feel great. Again, with theatre you don’t really have a reference point to go back to, you just approach it and try your best to prep as you can. The past two years have been a lot for all of us, hasn’t it? Inevitably things are going to feel different but it’ll be good when there’s a group of people coming together to collaborate on something. There will be changes and it will feel differently. Sadly, we lost one of our cast-mates during this time.
Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.
Yeah, the incredible Seun Shote. I’m going to be thinking of him and his family throughout this whole stretch of shows. It’s become something that is more than just a job for us. I think we just want to see it through.
I’m glad they are still seeing it through because a lot of things got scrapped because of COVID. I feel like you guys deserve to do this production.
Yeah, me too. I feel like it’s going to bring something to a conclusion of sorts. A lot of the original cast is coming back, so that’s a testament to how much he means to all of us.
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Lastly, I heard you’re interested in being part of the Dune sequel… Who would you be interested in playing?
Oh, great question. I had the book on my shelf forever, I think it might be my dad’s copy but it’s huge. There are six or seven books and it gets really, really bizarre. When I was visiting Montreal last time I had a chest infection so I was on medicine and tripping while I read it [laughs]. I listened to the rest of the book as an audiobook and proceeded to read three more. I cannot recommend them highly enough, especially with a chest infection and on a lot of medicine because it’s transcendental.
Is there a character that you have in mind that you want to play? Even if it’s Paul, you can get rid of Timmy even if all of his fans would come for you!
Oh my god, what are they called?
Probably Chalamet-ers or something. He’s amazing.
I think he’s wicked. I just want to play a character in it. It doesn’t matter what it is. I also love Jason Momoa in that movie. He brings some comedic relief.
My favourite role of his so far.
There’s a really bonkers thing that happens with Duncan Idaho in the books. Can I say a spoiler?
It’s fine, spoilers don’t exist when the books have been out for years.
At one point, he’s cloned and he comes back. Paul’s son tries to clone him and he keeps dying. But at least we’re getting more Jason Momoa in Dune.
This knowledge just made my day.
You’re very welcome.
Suspicion is out now on Apple TV. Catch Tom Rhys Harries on the West End in The Seagull, tickets & info can be found here.
Interview Kelsey Barnes
Photography Joseph Sinclair
Styling Olga Timofejeva
Grooming Maria Comparetto