A Q&A with local actor making it big, Owen Harn

Tampa's own talks True Detective, Danny McBride and his major role in Max

Making the move from Silver Springs, Md., to Largo at the age of 12, Owen Harn had long since decided that he wanted to be an actor. He honed his skills at The Performers Studio Workshop in Tampa under the direction of Kathy Laughlin, and began booking big-time gigs, including appearances on USA's Burn Notice, AMC's The Walking Dead and HBO's True Detective. Harn also stars alongside Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham in the family-friendly major motion picture, Max, which was released last week. CL recently got a chance to  chat with the very humble Harn about his burgeoning acting career. 

CL: Congratulations on all of your success. You’re doing Tampa very proud. Where are you based these days?

Owen Harn: In Largo. I’ve stayed in Largo, I’ve never relocated to L.A. or New York.

Have you ever thought about it?

I’ve thought about it, but it’s not me. It’s not my kind of lifestyle. The only place I would relocate would be Georgia, that's where most filming takes place in the southeast. I also have family there.

Is there any point you remember consciously deciding to become an actor when you were growing up in Maryland?

I grew up in Silver Springs, and I’ve wanted to be an entertainer since I was 5 or 6 years old. I’ve always wanted to do it, and I begged my parents to put me in acting classes, but that never happened. My plan when I got out of high school was to live out of my car in L.A. like Jim Carrey and hopefully something would happen.

Immediately after I graduated, I broke my vertebrae and was in a wheelchair for months. I had a lot of setbacks. People talked me into just going to college instead, and there was no way I could afford to move to L.A. So I went to college (University of Phoenix). In 2009, I found the Performers Studio Workshop in Tampa and have been there for the past six years studying with Kathy Laughlin. I’ve always wanted to do this — this is my dream.

Do you think that you immediately gravitated toward being a character actor? Was it especially cathartic for you?

I’ve always done different voices, and I thought I could do something for cartoons. I always wanted to do comedy, but everyone kind of saw me as this bad guy, so I just played the part. I put on thirty pounds of muscle, and I’ve been working consistently since I did that.

Has it been surprising to be cast in all of these "bad guy" roles, being that you’ve always been so drawn to comedic acting?

It’s still fun to play the bad guy. You can’t have a story without conflict, so they always need us. I enjoy it, but ultimately I’d like to do comedy. But, you need to get your foot in the door. Now, I’m finally doing the comedy thing, working with one of my favorite actors, Danny McBride.

Yeah, he's awesome.

It’s been a dream come true. Six years ago, watching Eastbound & Down (HBO) was a turning point. I said to myself 'This is what I want to do. I want to do what these guys are doing.'

You’re working on Vice Principals (2016) right now?

Yeah, I’m gonna shoot a few episodes.

How is it working with Danny?

He’s hilarious. He told me 'Dude, your audition was amazing, man.' To hear that from somebody like him, it was just surreal.

How did you originally get involved with the Performers Studio Workshop in Tampa in 2009?

I think it was just word of mouth. I took a class down in Miami, and I wanted to just get acting in Tampa. Someone directed me to [the Performers Studio Workshop], and Kathy took me in right away. I didn’t start working until about 2010, when I booked my first job, Burn Notice (USA). On this day five years ago, I had zero credits, and now I have twenty-something. It’s crazy how fast things can happen, but I also work extremely hard.

What's it like working with Kathy Laughlin? She seems pretty brilliant...

It’s been great. She beats us up and builds us up. She’s really taught me a lot of discipline, and that’s something I never had growing up. She’s definitely taught me how to structure my life. A lot of my daily decisions revolve around my career — what I eat, how much I sleep, when I go to the gym. She’s been great, she’s hilarious. I’m very fortunate I’ve found that class. I’ve learned so much

As an actor living in Tampa, do you feel like there is a solid sense of community?

I think some of the best actors I’ve ever worked with have been in my class. It’s all about timing, and I think everyone in the class will get jobs. It’s just a matter of sticking with it.

Do you feel like the Performers Studio Workshop prepared you well for these larger scale jobs you've been booking?

Most of the characters I book, I created them in class. You find all these characters, and you build an inventory in your head. When an audition comes up, you pull from that library. There are characters that I created back in 2008 that I still use today.

I want to talk a bit about True Detective. Personally, I binge-watched and then re-watched the first season in a matter of a month because I loved it so much. Being on that set, did you have any concept of how wonderful it would turn out?

I thought so. Working with Matthew McConaughey, I really got to see how great he is. Going into it, I’d seen him do a lot of chick flicks. But, working side-by-side, I was sure he was at least going to win an Emmy. Cary J. Fukunaga is the best director I’ve ever worked with. 

Where did you shoot at?

It was shot in New Orleans. We shot in the real projects, and there was real gunfire going off during our home invasion scene.

I thought it was funny. We were in a really bad neighborhood. We were shooting blanks, and we would hear real shots.

Tell me a little about your character, Deputy Stack, in Boaz Yakin's Max (2015).

I’m a Texas deputy. It’s based in Texas, but we actually shot in North Carolina. I’m a dirty, corrupt, biker cop. It’s funny to hear everyone cheering when I get hit in the face. 

So, you’re the antagonist again?

Yeah, myself and Luke Kleintank. He plays my best friend, Tyler Harne, which is funny because his last name is my last name.

It was a lot of fun to shoot in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and in Charlotte. It was a blast.

You had to train with some dogs for the film, right?

Yeah, there were six German Shepherds and six Rottweilers. [In the film], the dog attacks me and bites my neck. I had to keep going through each dog to see how I worked with them. Working with the dogs was different. It took twice as long, because they are animals, they don’t always take direction on the first try.

Did you go to the premiere?

No, I stayed in Largo and had my own little premiere here with my dad.

Is there anyone that has had an enormous influence on your career so far?

Ricky Wayne (of the Performers Studio Workshop) helped me a lot. My friends here that I’ve met in class have been most influential. I haven’t gotten too much advice from bigger stars, but other actors in my class are like my family. Everyone welcomed me immediately, and we build each other up and are there for each other when we go through rough times.

What are your hopes for your future as a performer, and some projects that you have coming up?

I would love to continue working with Danny McBride and Jody Hill, and I'd love to continue to do more comedy roles. It’d be nice to work on another big film. 

I have three guest starring roles coming up — AMC's Into the Badlands in the fall. Cinemax's Quarry in February and a recurring guest star on HBO's Vice Principals, alongside Danny McBride and Walton Goggins next spring.

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