Exclusive: Laura Harrier Talks Playing Liz In Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Exclusive: Laura Harrier Talks Playing Liz In Spider-Man: Homecoming
Posted by Wilson Morales

July 5, 2015

Coming out this week is the highly anticipated film from Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker.

With Jon Watts directing Sony’s reboot of the “Spider-Man” franchise, the cast also includes Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Michael Keaton as the villain, Kenneth Choi as Peter’s high school Principal and Zendaya as Michelle, Logan Marshall-Green, Donald Glover, Martin Starr, Michael Barbieri, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Isabella Amara, Angourie Rice, Jacob Batalon, Tyne Daly, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., J.J. Totah, Hannibal Burress, Garcelle Beauvais, Tiffany Espensen, Beast of No Nation actor Abraham Attah, and Bokeem Woodbine.

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Robert Downey Jr. is set to reprise his role as Tony Stark (Iron Man). Both Holland and Tomei appeared with Downey Jr. in “Captain America: Civil War.”

A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.

For Harrier, who Peter Parker’s love interest Liz, this is her first big role. The Evanston, Illinois native’s previous acting credits include playing Destiny Evans in the short-lived reboot of the soap opera “One Life to Live,” and The Last Five Years. She also had a role in Steve McQueen‘s TV series “Codes of Conduct,” which was passed on by HBO last year. She recently got a starring role opposite Michael B. Jordan in HBO’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Harrier talks about the difference between the comics and film of her character Liz.

How did you go from modeling to doing a pilot for Steve McQueen to getting an audition for Spider-Man: Homecoming?

Laura Harrier: Modeling was this job that I fell into when I was young. It was never the goal. It was part of the path and part of the journey, but through that, I realized it’s not what I wanted to do and so I decided to go to drama school. I went to William Esper Studio here in New York and while I was in my last year there, I was cast in Steve McQueen’s HBO show. That was about a year and after it ended up not happening, I just went to LA. I had to get a new job, be focused and auditioned a bunch of times. The first Spider-Man audition just sort of came up. My agent sent it to me and then I had another and another; and it just kept going until I had the screen test with Tom and it happened. It’s very surreal. It still doesn’t feel that I got the part.

Did you know the character you would be playing during auditions?

Laura Harrier: No. I knew then that it was Liz. During the first auditions, my character’s name was Beth and eventually I found out it was Liz. So I was reading a lot about her in the comics but the thing is that my character is different from the one in the comics and I decided to do my take on it. I didn’t know the size of my role. I didn’t know if I would be High School Girl #4. I wasn’t sure where the character would be going.

How different is Liz in the film from the comics?

Laura Harrier: Liz is the first girl that Peter is interested in from the comics. I think she was in Comics #4 in 1962 from The Amazing Spider-Man. She’s sort of the popular mean girl. She’s dating Flash and they bully Peter until she realizes that he’s cool and she’s into him. By that time, he’s moved on. That’s not where we wanted to take her at all. I think (director) Jon (Watts) was really smart and more progressive in making her be popular but well-liked and nice. You can be a nice person and excel and be smart, interested and care about people. I just wanted Liz to be a lot more relatable and for her to be driven and academic and intelligent while still playing this love interest role. I don’t think the two has to be mutually exclusive.

How are you like Liz?

Laura Harrier: I can be type A and probably overthink things sometimes. I would say I’m pretty driven and ambitious as well. She’s not as flexible as I am.

Can you talk about working with Tom (Holland)?

Laura Harrier: Tom is amazing. He’s so talented. He loves being Spider-Man. He’s completely behind this movie and so excited and believes in it. That energy and positivity really trickles through the set. He sets the tone for how the rest of us feels. He just made this whole experience really lovely. This is obviously my first big movie and I was very nervous going into it and even going into my first screen test when I met him for the first time. He’s so kind and genuine that it made the process less easier.

Were you a fan of Spider-Man and of comic books before this film?

Laura Harrier: Of course, I grew up with Spider-Man like most kids did. I watched the cartoons when I was a kid and we had a lot of comics around in our house. I read all sorts of comics and Spider-Man was definitely one of them. But after getting this role, I went back and read as many comics as I could to really do my research and immersed myself in the world.

While you were on the set with a bunch of veterans in the film, who did you watch to get a better sense of the craft of acting?

Laura Harrier: We were so lucky to be this group of the younger generation that all became good friends and that made it easier. That was really fun. I loved going to work and it was really sad when we wrapped. There’s Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton and Marisa Tomei and these actors that you have looked up for this long. They are such nice people and professional that I think that us as young actors learned a lot from them and these are people we aspire to be should we be ever so lucky. Jon (Watts) is so such a cool and positive person. He just made everyone feel comfortable.

From Steve McQueen and Jon Watts, what have you picked up from these directors and others as you start your career in this field?

Laura Harrier: I try to pick up things in every job. Steve and Jon were very different directors. Both are incredibly talented and make amazing movies. I learned so much on the Spider-Man set being on a huge film. That in itself is a huge learning experience with the size of it and the scope. “Be professional” and “Say hi to people” and basic things that you know. I’m just trying to learn things and pick up and take things away from every situation I’m in.

Until Black Panther comes out next year, this film boasts the most amount of Blacks in a Marvel film. Were you aware of that? Besides that, the diversity in general in the film is bigger that before. Hopefully it works out.

Laura Harrier: Yes. I hope it works out. I don’t think that we’re anywhere near where we should be in this industry but I this movie is a huge step forward. I think it shows that people want to see films that reflect what the world looks like. This takes place in New York City and that’s what our movie looks like. I think everyone is seeing one token person of color and that is what’s amazing about this film. It’s the difference between diversity and tokenism. I’m not there to be the token black girl who’s cute for Peter. I’m there because I was the best person to play this part. I hope it’s going to bleed in the culture of the rest of Hollywood. When they see that people are responsive to this, it’s just reality.


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