Kelvin Harrison Jr. On Continuing His 'Legends Only' Mantra With 'Elvis' And The Film Giving Space To Black Musical Icons
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Film , Interviews

Kelvin Harrison Jr. On Continuing His 'Legends Only' Mantra With 'Elvis' And The Film Giving Space To Black Musical Icons

Kelvin Harrison Jr. remains to be one of the most talented young actors working today, and he continues to build his impressive resume with Elvis.

On the heels of his last film, Cyrano, and ahead of Chevalier and The Lion King, Harrison plays the iconic B.B. King as the film explores the rapport he had with Presley.

When Harrison spoke to Shadow and Act recently about playing musical icons now and moving away from angsty teen roles, he joked, “Now I’m doing legends only, so unless you got a legend, don’t call me, period [laughs].”

When coming aboard the project, Harrison said he was excited to work with Lurhmann, the only person who he thought could properly do an Elvis film. “to be able to play B. B. King, I was like, “Well, I’m curious to investigate what that character’s existence does. How [does] that propel Elvis’s narrative forward? What does that mean to Elvis?” And then I find out that they were friends and I’m just like, “In what way?” So, then that gets really exciting as well, to figure out what is the friendship, what is the level of friendship, what does that mean to them at the time [and] how deep does that go, considering the circumstances? That became something fun for me to play with.”

An Elvis film would have to address the impact of Black culture and Black music on his career and how all of that started and even impacts the music industry today.

‘I think it’s very tricky still because it’s still a movie about Elvis and that’s a huge part of who Elvis is,” Harrison explained. “What I thought the smartest thing that Baz did was allow us to hear it, to get these incredible artists like Gary Clark Jr…it’s a nuanced version of it, but the soulfulness and the experience of how we experience Gary Clark Jr. singing is similar to how we feel about B.B. King and to have Yola and Shonka Dukureh singing “Strange Things [Happening Every Day]” and “Hound Dog” originally. You can’t explain it. It’s hard to explain, but we can experience it and we can hear the talent. We can hear the history in their voices. That’s the best way to articulate– through the work, through the artistry of what Elvis was inspired by and why he was so addicted to it. It’s nice to celebrate them. It’s always a challenging topic to get into in terms of the Elvis of it all and did he give them enough credit or not.”

As for this bombastic film hitting theaters, Harrison says he’s excited for folks to finally see a movie that’s “not a franchise or big IP.”

“There’s a lot of genre films out and they’re fantastic,” he said. “I’ve been going to the movies every day. I’ve been seeing even the small little French films that have been coming out, but I think it’s nice to be able to see a movie like Elvis. It’s a story about a dude, but it’s a story about America. It’s a story about race in America. It’s a story about music. And the visuals are stunning, the production design’s stunning, the performances, Austin [Butler]…like lights out. So, let’s go see a movie. Let’s have a summer movie.

Elvis is in theaters now.

Watch the full interviews below, also featuring Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Alton Mason and Yola.

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