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Kelvin Harrison Jr. Speaks On Similarities To His Character In Monster - Exclusive

"Monster" tells the story of Steve Harmon, a bright Black teenager who gets charged in connection with a murder. Steve, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. ("Waves," "Luce"), knows that he has an uphill battle: the jury sees a dangerous Black man — a monster, as described by the prosecution — and not the gentle, well behaved kid who he is in reality. The movie also shows Steve's life up to the trial, and how meets the people on trial with him. 

"Monster" explicitly deals in shades of gray, but did those involved with the movie see Steve as a monster?

"No," Harrison told Looper emphatically. "I don't see Steve as a monster at all. I think Steve is being brainwashed and conditioned to believe that he should be questioning his humanity because it serves the system. And that's the process and the journey he's on. He's just a kid. He's a kid that is just curious about life and curious about the people in his community, and that's it. Yeah, he's just curious."

Steve and Kelvin have similar backgrounds

Steve lives in Harlem, but attends the prestigious Stuyvesant High School. He has an interest in the arts and wants to make movies, spending a decent portion of "Monster" making a movie for his film class. This is a pretty strong biographic parallel to Harrison (via Bone Appetit), who attended a private high school in New Orleans where he was one of only a few Black students. "I wanted to be a musician first," he said. "I always wanted to be an artist, and then eventually I wanted to do movies, as we are here now doing movies."

When asked if there were any other similarities, he said "we share the same skin color" and let out a laugh. "So I think going through that process was very much eye-opening for me. I was figuring out in real time what my privilege looked like as a person of color, but also how much it didn't matter at the same time, how people still saw me the same way. And just because I went to a nice school and I had a very diverse group of friends didn't necessarily mean that I was exempt from being demonized or dehumanized in so many ways, just because of how the justice system works. And so I had to realize that. I was realizing that as we were shooting the movie, to be honest."

"Monster" is now streaming on Netflix.