R. Keith Harris portrays Dr. Harlan Carson, brother to Dr. Emmett Carson, on The Walking Dead. Dr. Harlan is the physician at the Hilltop community while his brother, Dr. Emmett, was the physician at the Sanctuary for the Saviors. Dr. Harlan specialized in obstetrics and was Maggie’s doctor when Sasha got her to Hilltop. He assured her all was well with the baby but that she needed to rest and take it easy. Why couldn’t my obstetrician have looked like that??
As we all know by now, Dr. Emmett Carson met a fiery end at the hands of Negan. So, Simon was dispatched to the Hilltop to retrieve the other Dr. Carson to take his brother’s place at the Sanctuary. Of course, Gregory, coward that he is, willingly agreed and seemed to be on the verge of giving up our Survivor group.
Keith, with the same kindness shown by Dr. Carson, agreed to answer our baker’s dozen of questions. Read on to learn all about R. Keith Harris.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Nashville, Tennessee. I was there all of about an hour though….my parents moved to Reidsville, North Carolina, before I was one. That is where I grew up.
Did you always want to be an actor?
I knew I wanted to be an actor since I was 9 years old. That never changed or me.
What was your very first acting role?
HA! Cord Elm in Oklahoma when I was in 8th grade, I think, with the Reidsville community theater group.
How did you get the role of Dr. Harlan Carson on The Walking Dead?
I auditioned for The Walking Dead a few times before I got the chance to audition for Dr. Carson. I submitted an audition video, and they cast me! :^)
Were you a The Walking Dead fan before you got the role?
Yes, I was a fan. I actually purposely avoided watching the show for a long time, because…well…I like to sleep at night – LOL! But then I gave the first season a shot and was immediately sucked into it…I had to stop watching for a bit after Carl had to take out his mom – that was a tough episode!
Did you do anything special to prepare for the role?
I’m a script analysis kind of guy – I love breaking the script down, etc, etc…but for security reasons, bringing on new people, producers aren’t sure they can trust everyone right away – so newbies only get the pages of the script that they are in. That’s it – we don’t get to see the whole script – so even if I wanted to give something away (which I don’t – far too much respect for the producers and fans!) I couldn’t. So to prepare, to get some idea of who this guy was in this world, I dug into the wiki breakdowns for the character from the graphic novel. Based on that I landed on the idea that he was sort of a Doctors Without Borders kind of guy…he has maybe done missions trips and third world clinic work, maybe even the outer edge of a war zone. There is not a lot known about the character “before the fall” so I had to make strong choices based on the limited info I could find.
What are your thoughts on Dr. Carson being taken to the Sanctuary?
I’m excited to see where they take the story line – I really don’t know what to expect.
Did you experience any funny or memorable behind the scene moments on the The Walking Dead set?
My first day on set…what a whirlwind! Just getting thrown into this iconic world was memorable by itself…it’s big stakes and I certainly wanted to prove they made the right decision in casting me but the biggest thing I found was The Walking Dead cast and crew is a big family and they welcomed me right in. Andy came up to me on day one, shook my hand, and we chatted for like fifteen minutes, just about life and kids; he was very gracious. I’ve found everyone, cast and crew alike, to be just like that. The flip side is – they work HARD, and they have each other’s backs.
I did find one thing quite funny. My first day was when Jesus, Rick, and the crew pulled us out of the abandoned building late in season 6. Numerous zombies were on hand for the shoot that day. I thought it was quite funny to see the zombies between takes sitting in their chairs, smoking a cigarette and scrolling through Facebook on their phones. I have to admit I did chuckle more than once at that sight.
You have worked as a writer, producer, director, and actor. Which is your favorite and why?
Well, that is a hard one. I work at all four in some capacity because I really consider myself something else that you didn’t list. I consider myself a storyteller, and especially in the film industry, to do that it takes every hat. Spielberg isn’t banging down my door (yet – LOL). I love acting – it is my first love – but at the end of the day, when you’re “just” an actor, you are trying to be a part of someone else’s vision for a tale to tell. I realized that I had stories of my own I wanted to tell, so when I lived out in Los Angeles is when I first started writing. What struck me out in Los Angeles is it’s called show BUSINESS and business is the bigger word. I wanted to “diversify” and take a little more control of my career, instead of just waiting for that phone to ring.
Do you have any new acting roles in your future?
Yes, I have three projects that I’m looking forward to coming out in the next couple of years. One is a film called Elbow Grease. It’s a quirky southern “dramedy” about this misfit family that I star in with Michael Abbot, Jr., who was just in the award winning film In The Radiant City, as well as Burt Reynolds. Next there is a film called Seven Days to Midnight – I call it a thinking-man’s Sci-Fi that is currently in post production. And lastly, a film that I wrote and produced called Shifting Gears. It’s a family/sports/comedy about dirt track racing – this one is sort of my Ode to Home. We are currently working on locking in our distribution. You can check us out at www.shiftinggearsmovie.com or on Facebook at /shiftinggearsmovie.
Who has inspired you in your life and acting career?
I grew up in small town America, before cell phones and internet existed (yes, I’m OOOOLD – hahaha). My parents were always supportive of what I wanted to do, but were NOT “theater parents” by any stretch. My high school acting teacher, Mr. Bell, started me down the path. He got me in North Carolina Theater Conference my senior year. NCTC for high schoolers is a scholarship audition for colleges around the state. I went, auditioned, and got a scholarship – that officially started me down the path.
Do you have any hobbies or special projects?
I like to work with my hands – be it doing a small renovation or update at home, or working on my car or in the yard. Movies take so long to complete. I like seeing something accomplished and feeling like, “I just did that today!” :^)
Is there anything you can tell all us fans about yourself that we don’t know?
Hmmm – let’s see…I’ve run a triathlon; I’m an eagle scout; I was one of only 16 people in the nation to be passed through to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in the Southeastern Theater Conference during graduate school where I competed and won one of only three scholarships. I love camping, and I’m madly, deeply, stupidly in love with my wife and kids. I married so far above my pay grade it’s not even funny! How’s that? :^)
Awww! Too bad you’re married because now all us fangirls are swooning over your love for your wife and kids! And just look at this picture! I usually use a head shot but I fell in love with this one…masculine, sexy, charming, fun loving, and completely at ease. I bet your wife and kids are madly in love with you, too!
Well, we’re down to the last episode of Season 7 of The Walking Dead and I hope we see Dr. Harlan Carson survive and get back to treating Maggie. Miracles can happen! Tune in Sunday night on AMC at 9/8C and tweet me your reactions @sassypoo