Three years after it first debuted at Sundance, Anthony Mandler's feature directorial debut, Monster, based on the award-winning young adult novel by Walter Dean Myers is finally coming to Netflix. The Harlem-set film (initially shot 5 years ago) stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Steve Harmon, a bright 17-year-old who finds himself thrust into the spotlight and on trial for murder after he inadvertently acts as a lookout during an armed robbery.
Though he's immediately made out to look like a monster to the public, his family and his lawyer try and prove otherwise. Monster's debut has been a long-time coming. Harrison Jr., a favorite of ours here at Shadow and Act, recently appeared on our Opening Act podcast with S&A's Managing Editor, Trey Mangum.
"It's tough because we change so much, the world changes so much," Harrison told Shadow and Act of the film coming out years after they shot it. "We change, we learn so much more. Would I do it differently? Probably. I would have different conversations around the story. I'd be a better actor now [laughs]. Like all of these things kind of play into having something come out like almost five years later. We've also learned more on the subject matter that I guess this film kind of deals with. I think what Monster is...it's like what did that mean for 2016 when we shot it? That's the perspective it was coming through, but most people might not look at it because they don't know that backstory. So it's interesting [and] I'm really curious to see how it all unfolds."
Since filming Monster, Harrison's profile has exploded. After being an indie and film festival circuit favorite, he's been in studio films and will be on a major premium cable show. He's been in everything from Waves and The High Note, to Luce, The Godfather of Harlem and The Photograph. He'll soon be seen in a major role in season 2 of HBO's Euphoria. Reflecting back on Monster and where he is today feels a bit overwhelming at times.
"I'm not interested in fame, I'm not interested in what people have to say about me, but the thing is, you can't really avoid it," he explained. " I'm really kind of trying to get comfortable with the fact that there is a version of me that is going to be on this box and in this thing that will be on the internet at some point that people will want to interpret and say this, that, and the third about the performance, about why I did it and all of those things. And I can say a few words [about it] but I don't really know how much that will mean. Then there's what I actually know, [what] is my truth. So I think, you know...I don't really know how I'll deal with it. But if I want to keep working, if I want to keep telling stories...which I love making movies and I love being a storyteller, I love being an artist that brings me so much joy...then I have to find comfort [in that]. But it's a strange thing, you know?"
Monster will debut on Netflix May 7, 2021.