Intelligent, well spoken, humble, thoughtful, and stylish are just few words to describe David Harewood. Composure had the privilege of spending an afternoon with David and learn of his past and current works, from having worked with legendary Judy Dench to more recently with Claire Danes in Showtime’s Homeland. You can see David in CBS’s highly anticipated Supergirl, but you just as well might catch him skateboarding along Santa Monica boardwalk.
Composure: What was it like coming off of a show like Homeland and working next to actors like Damian Lewis and Claire Danes?
David Harewood: In truth, I was a little worried when they told me my time on the show was over.
I had enjoyed being a part of it so much and had also learned a great deal from watching and working with Claire Danes that for a while I thought I would never experience such professional job satisfaction again! I guess I felt there was so much more to explore with the relationship, but it just didn’t happen. Funnily enough though, when I came back to America the following year, I was so encouraged by the amount of people, both professionally and on the street who said to me “Damn, why did they kill you!” It brought a smile to my face every time!
Composure: The highly anticipated Supergirl will be premiering on CBS soon . What can we expect from the show’s storyline? Will it be action packed?
David Harewood: Supergirl works on so many different levels, there’s a lot of action but it also operates as a workplace drama so I think there’s something in it for everyone. When I showed my kids the pilot, they couldn’t believe it wasn’t a movie! “This is going to be on every week?” said my daughter! It’s a very entertaining show and great family viewing. Funny and punchy, it’ll be a must-watch Monday night TV.
Composure: What can you tell us about your character Hank Henshaw? Is he anything like how some of the comics depict him?
David Harewood: The mythology surrounding the character of Hank Henshaw is deep and pretty awesome. Everyone knows that eventually he goes on to be Cyborg Superman, but we’re catching up with him a long way before that happens. We’re taking the view that he was not the most pleasant guy, which is a lot of fun to play! But there is a big secret that Hank is keeping, something that the audience will be intrigued to find out and I think comic book fans will be extremely excited to discover!
Composure: What is Hank’s relationship with Supergirl, played by Melissa Benoist?
David Harewood: Hank’s relationship with Supergirl is a fractious one. Her arrival on the scene complicates matters for Hank as a rookie superhero is not only a liability but she also acts as a magnet attracting all manner of super-baddies to National City. But you know what they say about ‘protesting too much’! Hank’s frustration with Kara’s arrival points to something Hank himself is keeping secret about, exactly what that is will be revealed as the show progresses.
Composure: “Free in Deed” was just awarded “Best Film” at the Venice Film Festival, congratulations! Who is Abe Wilkins to you? Being that it is based on actual events, how did you prepare for your role?
David Harewood: The preparation to play Abe was really very interesting as I myself have a very secular upbringing, yet I found myself reading and digesting both the Old and New Testaments with a fair degree of relish. I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t really studied the Bible much, and I became fascinated with just how violent certain passages were, also, I had no idea so many of today’s sayings originated from biblical sayings. It really was a journey for me, at times I could see how Shakespeare must have formulated some of his ideas for his plays from the good book too. I also lost a ton of weight! Something the director Jake Mahaffy asked me to do as much as possible. I ate a lot of soup and cut out booze for a month, and [the weight] it just dropped off me. I was also running everyday. It helped me think.
Composure: Some of your other projects include Tulip Fever, Grimsby, and the miniseries The Night Manager – can you tell us more about them? Can you share any details that the audience should pay attention to?
David Harewood: Grimsby is set to be very funny! Working with Sacha Baron Cohen was a real treat as I had no idea he was going to be so collaborative. If you had a better idea or if you threw something in he would seize on it and really allow you the freedom to explore it. Tulip Fever was a strange one for me as I really didn’t have much to say but when someone offers you a couple of scenes with the wonderful Judy Dench you don’t really say no! I really just did it to work with her, and I wasn’t disappointed. She’s very giggly! And although it wasn’t the biggest role I’ve ever played, I felt it was worth it just to play opposite such a legend. Similarly with The Night Manager my character died in the first draft I read yet he had several scenes with Olivia Coleman, who is just the most wonderful actress so that was good enough for me! But as the rewrites came in I actually didn’t die, in fact, I had more and more scenes with Olivia and eventually our characters were quite inseparable. We laughed a hell of a lot! She really is a pleasure to work with and the show itself became something that we all really took possession of. We began to offer up different ideas than had been on the page, almost as if the script was a living, breathing organism. It was beautifully directed by Susanne Bier, who kept the whole thing in her head in the most incredible way. I cannot wait to see it.
Composure: What’s ahead for David Harewood?
David Harewood: What’s ahead for me? Very much looking forward to Supergirl finally hitting the screens! We’ve been shooting for 2-3 months now, and I think we all need to get the show out of our heads and in front of the audience. I think people are going to really dig the show! I’d love to get back on stage at some point. Perhaps in London or New York, who knows but it’s difficult to look beyond Supergirl right now. It’s been a very busy year for me. I’ve hardly had a month off so between you and me I’m actually looking forward to just sitting at home for a while and playing dad!
Composure: Outside of acting, how do you spend your time? Do you have other passion projects?
David Harewood: Supergirl takes up quite a lot of my time here in Los Angeles, but I’m also trying to learn a language (Spanish) and the other day I bought myself an electric skateboard! It is unbelievably fun, and I try to get down to Santa Monica whenever I can to carve up and down the boardwalk. I can get up to about 25 miles an hour on it! It’s a pretty cool way of getting around town too! Not so sure my agent would be too happy to read that I’m flying around on an electric long board but hey ho! At least I’m wearing the right gear!
Supergirl premieres Mon, Oct. 26 8/7c on CBS