Kelvin Harrison Jr.

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Kelvin Harrison Jr.
A photograph of Kelvin Harrison Jr. at the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards
Harrison in December 2021
Born (1994-07-23) July 23, 1994 (age 29)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Years active2013–present

Kelvin Harrison Jr. (born July 23, 1994[1]) is an American actor. He is the recipient of such accolades as a Screen Actors Guild Award and nominations for a British Academy Film Award, Gotham Award, an Independent Spirit Award.

He began his career with small roles in the 2013 films Ender's Game and 12 Years a Slave. His breakthrough performance came as Travis in the 2017 horror film It Comes at Night, and in 2019 he gained wider recognition for his work in Luce and Waves. He then appeared in films such as The High Note (2020), The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), Cyrano (2021) and Elvis (2022). He plays the starring role in the 2023 film Chevalier.

Early life and education[edit]

Harrison was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to musicians Shirlita and Kelvin Harrison.[1] He grew up in the Garden District and later moved to The Westbank.[2] He studied studio engineering and marketing, before moving to Los Angeles, California to pursue acting, where he began taking acting classes.[2] He is also a skilled musician, mainly playing jazz and gospel on the piano, trumpet, as well as singing. His father was trained by Ellis Marsalis and grew up with Harry Connick Jr. Harrison studied under Jason Marsalis, recorded with Delfeayo Marsalis, and met Wynton Marsalis.[3][4]

Harrison attended Isidore Newman School,[5] where he was one of the few black students in his class and struggled to fit in.[6] He originally went to Loyola University New Orleans to major in studio engineering as his father felt he would excel in music. Harrison ultimately transferred to the University of New Orleans for film, with the goal of writing and directing his own films.[7]


In 2012, Harrison was cast in Ender's Game, based on the 1985 novel. He was upgraded to day-player and interacted with actors such as Viola Davis, Harrison Ford, and Ben Kingsley. Harrison credits Davis with making him take acting more seriously. He then had a small role in 12 Years a Slave.[7] Harrison would later appear in an episode of WGN America's Underground and the 2016 remake of Roots, both of which were produced in his home state of Louisiana. That same year, the actor had a small role in Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation. Harrison was initially hesitant to participate in Roots, in part because it would be his fourth portrayal of a slave, and he did not have fond memories of watching the original as a child. In retrospect, Harrison realized just how different the projects were.[1] In the meantime, Harrison landed a supporting role on Fox miniseries Shots Fired [8] as well as a recurring role as Touie Dacey on Crackle's StartUp [9]

Harrison began the year with a small supporting role in the Netflix acquired Dee Rees' Mudbound, which opened at the Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim.[10] Later that year, he played the role of Travis in Trey Edward Shults' 2017 psychological horror film It Comes at Night.[11] The film focuses on a family hiding in a forest as the Earth is taken over by a highly contagious disease. The film had its premiere at the Overlook Film Festival at Timberline Lodge in Oregon on April 29, 2017 and was theatrically released on June 9, 2017 in the United States by A24, was received positively by critics[12] and grossed over $19 million worldwide.[13] Harrison received praise for his performance, getting nominated for Breakthrough Actor at the Gotham Awards that year.[14] He has credited the role for giving him a reason to continue his acting career.[8]

In 2018, Harrison notably starred in three films that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, which were Monsters and Men, Assassination Nation & Monster.[15] In Reinaldo Marcus Green's Monsters and Men, he portrays Zyrick, a gifted teenage baseball player that becomes politically awakened after seeing a video of a man murdered by the police. In Sam Levinson's Assassination Nation he has a smaller role as Mason, a friend of the female protagonists and in Anthony Mandler's Monster, based on the Walter Dean Myers novel of the same name,[16] Harrison plays Steve Harmon, a seventeen-year-old honour student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. Assassination Nation and Monsters and Men both got releases in the same year while Monster acquired a distribution deal with Netflix in 2021.[17] He followed these up with supporting roles in the dramas Jinn[18] and JT LeRoy.[19]

2019 saw Harrison starring in two films that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, social thriller Luce [20] and psychological thriller The Wolf Hour,[21] both starring Naomi Watts. For his titular role in Julius Onah's Luce alongside Octavia Spencer and Tim Roth, Harrison received critical acclaim as the all-star high school athlete and accomplished public speaker born in war-torn Eritrea adopted in the United States. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Harrison's performance, at once slippery and surgically precise, compounds that ambiguity in ingenious fashion. He exhibits a quality that might have seemed like mere self-consciousness in a different actor's hands.[22] Harrison was nominated for Best Male Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards for his performance in the film.[23]

Harrison later played Jesse in Nabil Elderkin's directorial debut Gully.[24] The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 27, 2019 [25] and eventually found a national theatrical release on June 4, 2021.[26] Harrison's major breakthrough of the year came with Waves, which premiered to critical acclaim at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019 and found him reuniting with It Comes at Night writer & director Trey Edward Shults.[27] In the film, Harrison plays Tyler Williams, a popular high school senior and competitive wrestler whose life goes into disarray after suffering a career-ending injury. Shults stated that he wrote and tailored the role for Harrison, wanting to work with him again after their previous collaboration.[28] Harrison's performance in the film received rave reviews, with many critics favorably comparing and contrasting it to his performance in Luce.[29][30] IndieWire's Eric Kohn stated that the two performances pushed him forward as 'the preeminent face of disgruntled teenage life'.[31] The film is notable for widening his international exposure, leading to a BAFTA Rising Star Award nomination.[32] He capped off the year with a supporting performance as musician Teddy Greene in the first season of Epix's Godfather of Harlem alongside Forest Whitaker.[33]

The first half of 2020 saw Harrison venturing into more lighthearted and comedic roles, ranging from his studio debut in a smaller supporting role in Stella Meghie's romance film The Photograph[34] to the male lead in Nisha Ganatra's musical comedy-drama The High Note.[35] In the latter Harrison plays David Cliff, a singer-songwriter who acts as the love interest to Dakota Johnson's Maggie. To prepare for the film and its soundtrack, Harrison worked with a vocal coach for 45 minutes a day, to expand his range, and took guitar lessons.[36] He ended the year with a portrayal of revolutionary socialist Fred Hampton in Aaron Sorkin's biographical ensemble courtroom drama The Trial of the Chicago 7,[37] It was released in selected theaters on September 25, 2020, and began streaming digitally on Netflix on October 16.[38] The film was nominated for six Academy Awards[39] and Harrison and the rest of the cast won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.[40]

In 2021, Harrison portrayed Christian in Joe Wright's Cyrano, a musical film adaptation of the Off-Broadway play by Erica Schmidt, itself based on the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac.[41] Harrison was slated to appear in the second season of HBO's Euphoria, which would have reunited him with Assassination Nation director Sam Levinson,[42] but dropped out due to conflicting schedules attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.[43]

Harrison portrayed the legendary blues guitarist B.B. King in Baz Luhrmann's 2022 biopic Elvis, about rock and roll icon Elvis Presley.[44] He then starred in the 2022 film Chevalier, directed by Stephen Williams, in which he portrayed Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the 18th-century Black French violin virtuoso and classical composer.[45]

Upcoming projects

In August 2021, it was announced that Harrison will star in Mufasa: The Lion King, Barry Jenkins's follow-up to The Lion King, as the voice of young Scar.[46] In January 2022, it was reported that Harrison will portray the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in Samo Lives, a biopic that will reunite him with Luce director Julius Onah.[47]



Year Title Role Notes
2013 12 Years a Slave Victim 2
Ender's Game Salamandar Uncredited
2014 Deluge Kareem Short film
The Flight of the Bumblebee James
2015 A Sort of Homecoming Eliot
Dancer and the Dame Kenny Basset
2016 The Birth of a Nation Simon
2017 Mudbound Weeks
It Comes at Night Travis
2018 Monsters and Men Zyrick ("Zee")
Assassination Nation Mason
Monster Steve Harmon
Jinn[48] Tahir
JT LeRoy Sean
2019 Luce Luce Edgar
The Wolf Hour[49] Freddie
Gully Jesse
Bolden Frankie Duson
Waves Tyler Williams
2020 The Photograph Andy Morrison
The High Note David Cliff
The Trial of the Chicago 7 Fred Hampton
2021 Cyrano Christian
2022 Elvis B.B. King
Chevalier Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
2024 Mufasa: The Lion King Scar (voice) Filming
TBA O'Dessa[50] Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2015 Into the Badlands Jolyon Episode: "Chapter V: Snake Creeps Down"
2016 Underground Teenage Runaway Episode: "The White Whale"
2016 Chicago P.D. Michael Ellis Episode: "Justice"
2016 Roots Winslow Episode: "Part 4"
2016 Shots Fired Joey Campbell 3 episodes
2016–2017 StartUp Touie Dacey 12 episodes
2017 NCIS: New Orleans Cadet Lieutenant Commander Max Cabral Episode: "The Last Stand"
2019 Godfather of Harlem Teddy Greene Main role (season 1)

Music video[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2016 "One Bad Night" Main character by Hayley Kiyoko

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2017 Gotham Independent Film Award Breakthrough Actor It Comes at Night Nominated
2019 Hollywood Critics Association Film Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Waves Won
British Academy Film Awards Rising Star Award Waves Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best Male Lead Luce Nominated
2021 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture The Trial of the Chicago 7 Won


  1. ^ a b c Bergeron, Judy (May 29, 2016). "New Orleans actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. reclaims familiar role in remake of 'Roots' miniseries". The Advocate. Georges Media. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "COOLfeed Interviews with Actor: Kelvin Harrison Jr". Retrieved April 30, 2017 – via YouTube.
  3. ^ "Triple Threat: Kelvin Harrison Jr. is hitting the 'high note' of his career - Entertainer Magazine". Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  4. ^ "Rising Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. Shines Bright in Upcoming Reboot of Famed Historical Drama 'Roots'". Archived from the original on April 11, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  5. ^ Scott, Mike (December 4, 2019). "His time: New Orleans actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. is making waves (and 'Waves') in Hollywood". Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  6. ^ Thompson, Martine (August 12, 2020). "Kelvin Harrison Jr. Is Ready to Go Inward". Bon Appétit. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Change, Kee (June 9, 2017). "SCREEN TEST: KELVIN HARRISON JR". Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Ramos, Dino-Ray; N'Duka, Amanda (December 10, 2019). "New Hollywood Podcast: Rising Star Kelvin Harrison Jr. Talks Emotional Weight of 'Waves' and 'Luce'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  9. ^ Bergeron, Judy (September 30, 2017). "'StartUp' role grows on New Orleans actor Kelvin Harrison Jr". Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  10. ^ Winfrey, Graham (January 21, 2017). "'Mudbound' Is a Major Step For Dee Rees, But Underrepresented Storytellers Remain — Sundance 2017". IndieWire. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  11. ^ "It Comes at Night". Rotten Tomatoes.
  12. ^ Nordine, Michael (April 30, 2017). "'It Comes at Night': Trey Edward Shults' Horror Film Earns Rave Reviews at Overlook Film Festival". Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  13. ^ "It Comes at Night (2017) - Financial Information". Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  14. ^ Lewis, Hillary (October 19, 2017). "Gotham Awards: 'Get Out' Leads with Four Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  15. ^ Anderson, Tre'vell (January 22, 2018). "Sundance breakout Kelvin Harrison Jr. found his form of activism through 'Monster' and 'Monsters and Men'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  16. ^ Hazelton, John (October 7, 2016). "Bron to co-produce Mandler's Monster". Screendaily. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  17. ^ Lindahl, Chris (May 20, 2021). "How 'Monster' Spent 3 Years Going from Muted Sundance Premiere to Netflix Original Hit". Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  18. ^ "monster". Retrieved January 2, 2022.
  19. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (August 1, 2017). "Kelvin Harrison Jr., Courtney Love & James Jagger Board 'JT' Biopic". Retrieved January 2, 2022.
  20. ^ Collinson, Gary (November 13, 2017). "Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer and Tim Roth set for Luce". Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  21. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (November 28, 2017). "Jennifer Ehle, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Emory Cohen Join Naomi Watts In 'The Wolf Hour". Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  22. ^ Chang, Justin (July 31, 2019). "Review: Who is 'Luce'? Kelvin Harrison Jr. gives a compelling answer in a twisty race drama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  23. ^ Sharf, Zack (February 6, 2020). "2020 Independent Spirit Awards Nominees: 'Marriage Story,' 'Uncut Gems,' and More". IndieWire. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  24. ^ Ford, Rebecca (March 9, 2019). "Charlie Plummer, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jacob Latimore to Star in 'Gully' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  25. ^ "Gully". Tribeca Film Festival. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  26. ^ Barfield, Charles (May 20, 2021). "'Gully' Trailer: Three Friends Try To Survive Their Violent Neighborhood In Nabil Elderkin's Drama". Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  27. ^ Kilday, Gregg (July 2, 2018). "Lucas Hedges, Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell will headline the cast of 'Waves,' a dramatic musical written and directed by Trey Edward Shults". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  28. ^ Cea, Max (November 15, 2019). "How Waves Director Trey Edward Shults Made the Movie of This Moment". GQ. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  29. ^ Travers, Peter (November 11, 2019). "'Waves' Review: A Family, Two Stories and One Major Young Filmmaker". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  30. ^ Debruge, Peter (August 30, 2019). "Film Review: 'Waves'". Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  31. ^ Kohn, Eric (August 30, 2019). "'Waves' Review: Trey Shults' Dizzying Tearjerker Depicts How a 21st-Century Family Can Fall Apart". IndieWire. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  32. ^ "The full list of nominations for the Baftas 2020". The Guardian. January 7, 2022. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  33. ^ Petski, Denise (September 26, 2018). "'Godfather Of Harlem': Kelvin Harrison Jr. & Lucy Fry Cast In Epix Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  34. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (March 22, 2019). "'The Photograph': Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chante Adams, Jasmine Cephas Jones & Y'lan Noel Set For Uni's Romance Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  35. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (May 23, 2019). "Kelvin Harrison Jr., Zoe Chao Join Dakota Johnson & Tracee Ellis Ross In Music-Centric Comedy 'Covers'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  36. ^ Jackson, Angelique (May 29, 2020). "Kelvin Harrison Jr. on Finding His (Singing) Voice in 'The High Note' and Joining 'Euphoria' Season 2". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  37. ^ N'Duka, Amanda. "'The Trial Of The Chicago 7': Kelvin Harrison Jr Joins Aaron Sorkin-Helmed Feature". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  38. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (July 1, 2020). "Netflix Closes $50M+ Global Deal For Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial Of The Chicago 7'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 1, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  39. ^ "The full list of 2021 Oscar nominations". Guardian. March 15, 2021. Archived from the original on March 15, 2021. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  40. ^ "SAG Award Nominations 2021: See the Full List". Vanity Fair. February 4, 2021. Archived from the original on February 5, 2021. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  41. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (September 18, 2020). "Kelvin Harrison Jr. Joins Peter Dinklage In 'Cyrano' Musical At MGM". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  42. ^ Sneider, Jeff (April 14, 2020). "Exclusive: 'Euphoria' Season 2 Adding Kelvin Harrison Jr. from 'Luce' and 'Waves'". Collider. Archived from the original on June 3, 2020. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  43. ^ "Kelvin Harrison Jr. No Longer Attached To 'Euphoria' Season 2". Shadow and Act. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  44. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (December 30, 2020). "Kelvin Harrison Jr. To Play Blues Icon B.B. King In Baz Luhrmann's 'Elvis' Project". Deadline. Archived from the original on January 9, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  45. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 31, 2021). "Kelvin Harrison Jr. To Star In Searchlight's 'Chevalier de Saint-Georges' As The Musical Prodigy". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 1, 2021. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  46. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (August 26, 2021). "'The Lion King' Prequel: Kelvin Harrison Jr. & Aaron Pierre To Lead Cast For Disney & Barry Jenkins". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
  47. ^ Jackson, Angelique (January 5, 2022). "Kelvin Harrison Jr. to Star in Jean-Michel Basquiat Biopic 'Samo Lives' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 8, 2022.
  48. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (March 14, 2018). "'Jinn' Director Gets Personal With Teenage Identity Defining Film – SXSW". Deadline. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  49. ^ Hipes, Patrick (October 20, 2017). "Naomi Watts To Star In Psychological Thriller 'The Wolf Hour'". Deadline. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  50. ^ Searchligjt Pictures Film and Television Preview August 2023

External links[edit]