‘The Mortal Instruments’ Star Jared Harris On the Cults of YA and ‘Mad Men’

harris interview

Jared Harris knows a thing or two about pop culture occults and the cults of pop culture. The Emmy-nominated actor is perhaps best known to audiences for his roles on fervent fan favorite TV shows like Fringe and Mad Men. Harris will next be seen in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the big screen adaptation of Cassandra Clare‘s popular fantasy YA series in which he plays Hodge Starkweather, a cursed tutor who teaches the Shadowhunters, a group of underground demon hunters. 

“This year, I’ve done three, for f**k’s sake! What’s going on?” Harris told Hollywood.com on the Toronto set of The Mortal Instruments regarding his recent transition into the fantasy/horror genre, in which TMI certainly falls.  “I did a movie called The Quiet Ones, which was about a guy who’s investigating paranormal events… and then I played the devil. And then now I’m in this film, which is all about demons and s**t, so yeah, it’s been a weird year for that.” 

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Still, even after unintentionally finding himself in yet another supernatural film, he still found new and exciting challenges in playing the morally-conflicted Hodge. “He’s a fun character. You don’t know which side he’s playing on, which is always interesting to do,” Harris said. “[He] is someone who knows what the right thing to do is, but for his own reasons, is making a different deal, because he’s trying to change his circumstances. But he knows the difference between the right thing and the wrong thing to do, and he’s not delusional in the sense that he doesn’t think that he’s doing something for the betterment of mankind or some bulls**t like that. He knows that what he’s doing is purely to get his own ass out of the situation that he’s stuck in.”

So what could be better than getting to play someone as unpredictable as Hodge? Getting to fight and dress up as someone like Hodge. “What’s great fun is I get to fight Dredger [Robert Maillet, who plays Samuel Blackwell, one of TMI‘s baddies] from Sherlock Holmes. He’s a f**king enormous man. So it’s been fun, because when you do all these fight scenes, you try and jazz ‘em up and everything. And then I sit there and I go, ‘Listen, if this guy hit me, I’d collapse. I’d crumble if he actually managed to actually connect with me.’ But I was really excited that I was fighting him, because I f**king loved him in that movie.”

RELATED: ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ Trailer 

But don’t put Harris — who memorably went fisticuffs-to-fisticuffs with Vincent Kartheiser‘s Pete Campbell in a classic episode of Mad Men — down for the count just yet. “I can still kick ass, man,” the Brit assured us. Harris also got to do a physical transformation of his own, thanks to the fake Shadowhunter tattoos and the gothic aesthetics used to bring Hodge to life. “I have a scar, which I didn’t have before. A good prosthetic scar, a white wig….which is a bit shocking. You look in the mirror and you see what you might be like a couple years from now.” 

Still, the 51-year-old actor didn’t feel old on the TMI set, which was largely comprised of young Hollywood up-and-comers like Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower, thanks to their professionalism. “Nowadays you find that a lot of the youngsters have been doing it almost as long as you have, because they’ve been doing it since they were 6, you know?” Harris said, adding, “So they’re all pros.” 

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Harris also seem unphased by the much younger following TMI has as opposed to, say, Mad Men. The actor, who admitted he hadn’t read Clare’s books before signing on to the project, noted “This is slightly different than the Mad Men [fandom] because it exists in a literary form first, the fans have [it in their] imaginations already. But something like Mad Men, it exists in Matt Weiner’s mind. And no one can read what Season 6 and Season 7 is, because it’s in his head.”He added, “So I would say in that sense, it’s probably a little freer, whereas in this one, you have an obligation to that mythology. And you don’t want to piss the fans off, you know?”

As any TMI fan would argue, oh do they know. But Harris assured that he, his TMI castmates and crew members have done everything in their powers to ensure that doesn’t happen. As Harris put it, “You have to honor the mythology that’s been created in the books, which they have done.”

[Photo credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

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