MOOD spoke to Harrison about the irregulars, his path to fame, and his burning desire to use his platform for good.
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The acting world has always been notoriously difficult to breakthrough into the spotlight. Many will spend most of their lives trying, but eventually fall just short of taking center stage. However, for British actor Harrison Osterfield, that moment of stardom has come sooner than expected. His latest role in the Netflix drama, The Irregulars, marks a breakthrough moment at just 24 years old. Starring in the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes, viewers are transported back to Victorian London where they are treated to a period drama, with a twist. Across eight episodes, Harrison shows the world his endless potential. After a successful modeling career, and assisting in some of Hollywood’s most renowned films, Harrison has built up a loyal social media following, accumulating over 800 thousand followers on Instagram. It’s been a unique journey that’s taught the actor a lot. We spoke to Harrison about his most important role to date, his path to fame, and his burning desire to use his platform for good.
Becoming an actor is something we’re all told as kids is just a dream, a fairytale so to speak, even the most supportive parents would recommend a backup career. For Harrison, the moment he got into London’s infamous BRIT school, his only focus was on making this dream his future life. At that moment, his family’s main role was to keep him grounded and focused on the long journey ahead. The actor explains: “When I first got into BRIT school because, obviously, it's quite a competitive thing to get into – I think they have something like 6,000 applicants for 60 or 30 places – I remember getting in and thinking, ‘All right yes, I've made it now. I'm going to be an actor.’ My granddad had to sort of sit down and be like it's way more difficult than you think and personally I think you're on the road to disaster, but I’ll support you anyway.”
It was whilst Harrison was studying at BRIT school that he met Tom Holland, drawn together through a feeling of being somewhat out of place in the uber extroverted atmosphere they found themselves in. It was a meeting that would lead to a now-famous close friendship. When Tom was chosen as the next Spider-Man in 2015, Harrison found himself with the opportunity of assisting his friend on some of the biggest movies in Hollywood; it would open many doors for the actor. “When I first went to work with him it was a great opportunity to see how an actor is on set. I mean, I had great experiences at drama school and performing arts school, but being on set is a different world. To see someone who is so hardworking is so enthusiastic and so kind to everyone that he comes across – whether that's someone in the crew or director or producer – was a real learning curve for me.” Harrison proclaims, “Now that I'm doing some cool stuff, we're still very good friends and I can ring him up and ask him about anything. He's happy to give his sort of advice from his own experience and apply it to mine.”
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Now, Harrison finds himself fresh off the back of his first major role as an actor. A totally new experience that saw the artist go from a total of 10 minutes on screen to eight hours. He comments, “It's a bit surreal, a bit overwhelming, and a bit daunting. I've been getting a few messages like, ‘Oh my goodness I binged it in one day or ‘I finished it in eight hours.’ And I'm like that's really cool, but I spent like a year and a half making that so maybe just savor it like a little bit more. It's been a bit of a crazy time.” Set in Victorian London, within the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes, Harrison plays Leopold in The Irregulars, one of five teenagers that help solve crimes for Watson and Holmes. Despite its setting, Harrison is adamant that this is a world totally different to ones we’ve visited in the past, as he explains: “When I first got it and I heard that it was a Sherlock Holmes adaptation I thought, oh that's cool that's interesting and then I read this script and realized that it was something completely different. Of course, we're set in the Sherlock Holmes universe and Sherlock and Watson are featured, but it's a very different Sherlock Holmes to anything that we've seen before. He's sort of at the lowest of the low and he's a shell of the person he once was, and can't solve the mysteries he once could. I quickly realized that even though we're set in this world, it's a coming-of-age story about these five kids. These five characters are mentioned in the books briefly, but our showrunner Tom Bidwell has done an amazing thing of sort of fleshing out these characters; they're all so individual. I think one of the main aspects of the show is that whomever you connect to like a character, there are so many different ones that you can relate to and relate to those stories and their upbringings and their experiences. So, it was a real joy as soon as I got the script and it was a role that I knew what I wanted to play.”
Harrison’s character was a unique role due to its historical interpretation of Prince Leopold, the youngest child of Queen Victoria, famously known for his vulnerable physical state due to suffering from Hemophilia. However, despite that physical ailment, Leopold was an incredibly intelligent figure, something that Harrison quickly realized. “Once I started reading the script, I was like there are words in the script that I have not even heard of. So, I definitely had to brush up on my dictionary skills and see what the hell he was talking about. I quickly realized how sort of well-spoken he is, and how he's always got perfect manners no matter whom he's interacting with, whatever class.” On the journey his character undertakes throughout the series, the actor states, “My character has been kept away at home for most of his life due to some underlying health problems that you find out in the series. It's on his 17th birthday that his one birthday wish is to go out and experience London, and it's on that first outing where he encounters the other Irregulars. The secret with my character is that the home that he's been kept away in is Buckingham palace because he is Queen Victoria's youngest son so he's aka Prince Leopold. He decides to hide that from the other Irregulars just in the hopes of being sort of accepted as a normal teenager, and it's quite a fun journey to see him sort of balance those both lives as the series continues.”
The experience of filming an eight-part series is a first for Harrison. Despite long stints assisting on movie sets, The Irregulars was more of a marathon for the actor to undertake. It was yet another learning curve that only sets him up for good stead in the future. “It was a massive leap and for those kinds of longer jobs, you really need to have the stamina to perform to the level that I wanted to perform at. It was just such an amazing experience.” He states, “We were all very lucky enough to become very close, the five of us, and I think if we didn't like each other, it would have been a much harder job. In those tough times are those like sort of 16-hour days, 5 AM starts, and to sort of help you along the way and have that camaraderie was a real privilege.”
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The Irregulars is another period drama that we’ve seen gain such popularity in recent years. Whether it be historically accurate or with fictional undertones, we’re all craving for more of The Crown, Bridgerton, and Peaky Blinders. But why exactly have these shows drawn so many plaudits? Why now are we so desperate to venture back over 100 years to gain some entertainment? In Harrison’s eyes, it’s the vast difference from today’s advanced world and the escape it offers us. “I think it's just because its stories are so different from our modern-day. I think with the way that technology is sort of advancing pretty much day to day, it's quite a lot to take in. To have those stories, which were sometimes historical or things that you can’t imagine, is a nice thing to escape from and sort of draw away from the chaos that normal life can bring.” The actor proclaims, “I think to have a period show like The Irregulars but flip it on its head with being a bit more modernized – it’s modern music, there's modern language as well – it's quite a nice thing to see. the replication of today's London. I just wanted to get on board straight away.”
Prior to Harrison’s breakthrough role, he had already built up a huge following on social media, with over 800 thousand people able to see anything he chooses to post. It can be a huge help to any artist in getting their name out there, but it can also be rather intrusive, for the actor the line is fine, but as long as it breeds positivity then it’s all good. “It's mad. The fact that I can literally put up a video of me making beans on toast and get seen by a hundred thousand people is mad, it's crazy. I'm very lucky that most of the reaction has been a positive thing and people are interested to see what I'm doing. Now that I have this big series that is by one of the biggest streaming services in the world, I'm really grateful that I can share that with them. Social media should be a thing of sharing the things that you love and sharing things about your family. So quite a lot of my social media has to do with my family and my friends and everything like that, and me just having a good time. Hopefully, if people can see a bit of positivity online, they may want to do the same thing. To have positive energy around and to be receiving it, that's what I want to hopefully do with my platforms.”
It's within that approach to the positivity that Harrison wants to use with his platform. Already setting up fundraisers for the likes of the Emily Ash Trust, there’s a determination there to make sure this journey isn’t a futile one. “Well, that's also another thing of like, I've been lucky enough to do these fundraisers for charities that have been close to my heart from the start. Even in a time like this with the pandemic where charities are struggling, being able to shine a spotlight back on them where they have been hidden before.” He states, “Taking a back step has been really special. As my career progresses, I want to get more involved in charity work. I want to get more involved in sustainable action and climate change, and all of that and use my platform for good because if you're not using them for good what are you using it for?”
It's been a hell of a journey so far for the British actor and this breakthrough role is sure to only project Harrison’s career further in the future. Speaking of the future, he’s got his eyes on Hollywood and taking on his best friend at some point. “I've always wanted to go into the superhero universe. My mate's taking the other one and I've always been a Batman fan.” Harrison explains, “So if I can get into that world, later on, I think I'll need to go to the gym a bit more and get a bit more rugged maybe. And if that fails, I mean Batman's got a load of sidekicks that I think I can slot into right now like with Robin or Nightwing. So, yeah there are possibilities and that world is constantly growing into a world that I'd love to be a part of, so we'll see what the future brings.” With his feet firmly on the ground and a genuine passion for positive change, Harrison Osterfield is a breath of fresh air and we can’t wait to see what comes next for the actor.