Russell Harvard plays Matt “The Hammer” Hamill in the full length feature film “Hamill” that is winning awards at film festivals around the country. Harvard has previously played the adult H.W. Plainfield in the Academy Award winning motion picture “There Will Be Blood,” and has appeared on the television show “Fringe” created by J.J. Abrams. He was raised by a deaf family and grew up in Texas.
This interview was conducted on March 30 at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Question - Tell me a little bit about your preparation in going into your role as Matt Hamill.
Russell Harvard - I was supposed to play Jay originally and then about a year later they decided that they wanted me to audition to play Matt. I had always wanted to play Matt. But they were going to shoot in two months. I was really disappointed, because I wanted a year to train to get bigger and everything. I only had about a month and a half to prepare and train.
Q - What was your most memorable moment from shooting the movie?
R.H. - I would have to say when I picked up my date (Courtney Halverson) for the prom scene and I got to drive the 1930 Ford Roadster.
Q - What is your next project after “Hamill”?
R.H. - I’m going to be working on a deaf production, an ASL (American Sign Language) film. The title is called “Versa Effect,” and it starts shooting in two weeks (By the time you’re reading this it’s supposed to be shooting.)
Q - Because I’m very curious and know very little about it, in a medical sense, what separates your ear from a hearing ear?
R.H. - Actually nothing separates me, I was raised by a deaf family and I’m a 3rd generation so I’m used to vibrations. And I am more comfortable with signing rather than speaking.
Q - Recently you worked on the television show “Fringe.” Can you tell me a little bit about that experience there and how it has benefited you?
R.H. - I hope it will get me more roles. “Fringe,” was so much fun and not even stressful compared to “Hamill.” It was very fast and rapid. Playing the dead guy was very easy (editor’s note- he is alive for the majority of the episode he was in.) Working with Anna Torv was so much fun, she is a great, great actress and very sweet. I did not think she would be that kind of person.
(There is a stunt in the episode where Russell is being dragged by Anna’s character “Fauxlivia” which Russell is referring to.) There was a stunt which she did not want to do herself, but I told her “You want to be authentic so I want you to pull me,” so she obliged. It was a great experience and so much fun and I wish I could have stayed on the show for a long time.
Q - What kind of research did you do going into the role of Matt Hamill?
R.H. - I studied how his signing styles were and I met with his wife Kristi. I had to pick up on particular hand shape movements and the wrestling moves. Matt came to the movie set and he believed in me. If he is happy then I am happy.
Q - Can you tell me how you initially got into this project?
R.H. - I met with Eben (Kostbar) and Joe (McKelheer) a year before the production and they were still looking for deaf actors and they couldn’t find any, and then they asked me to play Matt rather than Jay.
Q - I noticed that you have an interest in music; can you tell me what has drawn you to that?
R.H. - My sister happened to introduce me to music and showed me some artists and I fell in love with it. The deaf community obviously can’t hear music so I thought I would interpret for them by reading the lyrics and signing. I wanted them to experience music through their eyes.
Q - Thank you.
R.H. - You're welcome.