7 Questions With…Ian Harding

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Photo Source: Ross Ferguson

The “Pretty Little Liars” star chats with Backstage about getting his SAG-AFTRA card, his biggest acting crushes, and what he wishes he knew before he started acting.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.
I have a few shorts we’re hoping get into the various festivals, [and then] there’s a movie that I just did with Evanna Lynch, who’s from the “Harry Potter” films, called “Dynamite: A Cautionary Tale,” that’s about a heroin addict in 1960s New York.

The great thing about being on a television show is that it usually provides you with fairly steady income so you can go and do things. I did the various theater festivals; I went to drama and art school and so a lot of my peers are in the process of creating their own work, writing their own stuff, or directing their own thing. Most of the time it feels like you kind of grow with them and you get to a certain age and now you’re all working professionally, [but] it feels like I kind of jumped forward a few steps, very luckily. So now I get to turn around and use whatever sort of clout I might have, which…I don’t know how much I have, and help them out, work with them and get notoriety, funding—things like that.

How did you get your SAG-AFTRA card?
I think I got my card on “Adventureland,” which was with Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Ryan Reynolds. It was really, really eye-opening. I had a very small part in that, but I got to work with Jesse Eisenberg, who’s just an amazing fella.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
As a child, my sister and I had very fruitful imaginations, and I would think that I wanted to be one profession or I’d want to have this experience in life. I realized it’s not because I actually wanted to be a Coast Guard helicopter rescue pilot or something like that—I just enjoyed the idea of playing it. So then as I grew older and got into high school, after having fallen into theater accidentally, it was the only thing that I was really good at or that I would take seriously.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known before you started acting?
One of them is finding other hobbies, and also being able to not take it as seriously, because I spent so much time in college thinking that I wasn’t getting this one scene because I was bad. As a result, you strangle the life out of the scene or the play or the character because you take it so seriously, and you have nothing else; acting is your life. There’s something really idealistic about that. It’s good to be a martyr for your art, but it’s just such a waste of time. So if I could say something to a younger version of myself, I would say, “Cool it and get some other hobbies. Figure out other passions and create a life for yourself, and the jobs will follow.”

Who do you have an acting crush on?
I think Ralph Fiennes has had a really wonderful career; there’s something sort of classic about him. He does a bunch of different projects but he approaches the work from a very sort of artful way. I’ve always loved everything he does and the choices that he makes. I [also] really like Brit Marling because she’s a tour de force or a one-two punch…[or] some other trite cliché, but she’s highly intelligent. She’s written and been in the creative process of several movies that I think are very thought-provoking.

What is your best/worst audition horror story?
I had this one audition—I can’t even remember what the project was, but it was for producers…and that’s kind of far along in the process so you get your hopes up a little bit. It was in this very modern building and on the couch in front of me, one of the producers is sitting and it’s this low-lying couch. He has his leg up and he has what looks like the top of a notepad there. So he’s looking down on it and I’m thinking, OK, he’s taking notes. Well, I’m in the middle of the second scene I have to do and it’s kinda like a monologue and it’s very sad, like, “And that’s how my whole family died” or something. [Then] I see in the reflection of the lamp next to him that he’s on his iPhone, and it looks like he’s playing some sort of game. And it was kind of like, Oh man…. You go through the stages of grief, like, “It must be me,” [then] “No he’s not doing that.” Then there’s anger, like, “Should I stop and call him out?”

What’s been your most challenging role?
The film I did last year called “Dynamite.” The wonderful thing about indie film is if it’s good, it’s a wonderful place for you to kind of cut your teeth—especially if you’re in the top four of the call sheet, you have a little more clout. This was my first time as No. 1 on the call sheet and it’s interesting just the sort of responsibility that you have, and how [the way] you act in front of the camera and off-camera really ripples through the rest of the set. It was fascinating to see how you are treated and how you should treat others in that. It was a wonderful experience in many ways, but just seeing the responsibility of being No. 1 on the call sheet and what you owe the people that are helping to make this film was really eye opening.

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