EXCLUSIVE: Jared Harris talks 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,' 'Mad Men,' and 'Fringe'

Monday, 20 June 2011 15:53 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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EXCLUSIVE: Jared Harris talks 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,' 'Mad Men,' and 'Fringe'

Sherlock Holmes may be one of the greatest fictional detectives ever created but the mystery surrounding who would play his archenemy Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, the sequel to the 2009 hit film Sherlock Holmes, appeared to be a bigger puzzle than even the great sleuth could solve. While the character was featured in the first film, it was only briefly, and mostly all we got was a body double’s hands and an unknown actor’s voice over. Director Guy Ritchie declined to say just exactly who voiced the role, and while actor Ed Tolputt was credited in the movie as “Anonymous Man,” it is unclear if that referred to Moriarty. Rumors soon began to spread that the role was actually performed by Brad Pitt who chose to take no credit for the film, although those rumors were eventually debunked. But when casting began on the sequel, and it was determined that the famous villain would have a larger role in this movie, rumors began to fly once again that Ritchie and his producers were trying to woo The Curious Case of Benjamin Button actor to take on the part. Ultimately Pitt did not except the role and rather than casting another major movie star like Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, or Gary Oldman (who were all up for the part), Ritchie decided to go with the lesser known yet equally exceptional veteran actor Jared Harris (Mad Men, Fringe).

I recently had a chance to speak with actor Jared Harris about his role in legendary director John Carpenter’s latest film The Ward, which opens in theaters on July 8th. While speaking to Harris, I first took the opportunity to ask the seasoned actor about his role in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and Harris mentioned that he had completed filming his scenes for the film back in February. I followed up by asking the actor if it was a challenge for him to step into a role, that even briefly, had been played by someone else in the first film and how his Moriarty will sink up with the one we saw in the previous movie. “Well whatever happened in that earlier movie is obviously part of the build up to the character in this story and stuff like that,” he explained. “But I didn’t look at it and try to figure out a way to always stay in the shadows or something so you can’t see my face. It’s a new story and obviously the character is connected to that first movie but it doesn’t follow on exactly or directly from that story. I had license to interpret it and do it however I’d like to.”

I next asked Harris if he is taking any cues for the character from the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books or simply just from the script by screenwriters Kieran and Michele Mulroney. “Well they are very concerned with being faithful to the spirit of the books while giving themselves license to recreate the story in a different and modern era,” Harris explained. “The audience’s familiarity with pop structure and stuff like that has improved and is now more sophisticated in the sense that we are so used to seeing so many of these types of stories. So they are trying to do it in a different way.” I also asked the actor if he had the opportunity to share any scenes with actor Robert Downey Jr. who plays the title role of Holmes. “Yes, He’s wonderful. I can’t speak highly enough of the man’s talent, and as a person as well. He’s an extremely generous man, he is very charming, and he’s incredibly accessible. I am a really big fan of his I have to say.”

Harris is of course best known to TV viewers as Lance Pryce, Sterling Cooper’s English financial officer on AMC’s critically acclaimed series Mad Men. Fans of the series, which ended its forth season last October, unfortunately will have to wait a while for the upcoming fifth season to premiere due to a lengthy contract negotiation between AMC and the show’s creator Matthew Weiner that was reported on quite thoroughly in the press. While negotiations have been settled and the series will be back filming this summer, Mad Men fans will most likely have to wait until 2012 for the next season. I took the chance to ask Harris about returning to the show and if knows yet when the cast will begin filming. “I haven’t been told yet but I think it is sometime in August,” the actor confirmed. “We haven’t been officially told yet. I know that they’ve opened the writer’s room and they are writing scripts and doing what they do.” I followed up by asking Harris if it is difficult as an actor having so much time off between seasons on a TV series like Mad Men, and if the time off makes it harder to get back into character. “Well I’m looking forward to going back to work. I am curious what happens next and where this season goes. I think we are all fans of the show, those who work on the show, so we’ll see.”

Finally, Harris has also had a recurring role on the popular Fox sci-fi series Fringe, where he plays ZFT cult leader David Robert Jones. While Harris’ character was killed in the season one finale, fans of the series know that anything is possible on Fringe, and with the introduction of a parallel universe, any deceased character could easily make a comeback. I finished my conversation with the actor by asking him if he thinks its possible that he may return to Fringe one day. “I don’t know about that yet,” he answered. “I’m not sure what’s going on but I love the show and I am a fan of it. I’ve watched every single episode that they’ve made and I’m fascinated by what they are doing with the show. I mean Leonard Nimoy possessing Olivia Dunham’s body was absolutely genius. It was f---ing great! I love that show so yes, I’d be up for doing it again.”

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows is scheduled for release on December, 16th.

The Ward opens in theaters everywhere on July, 8th.

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