Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) a seventeen-year-old honor student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. The film follows his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. We recently had the opportunity to speak to Kelvin Harrison Jr. about Monster and his role.
The Movie Blog: Can you talk about what Steve’s story means and what you’re hoping audiences to get from it?
Kelvin Harrison Jr: I think the story is about a kid who is really trying to make the most out of all the mini colors that kind of exist in life, and make the most out of his relationship with his parents…make the most out of his friendship and trying to figure out what all those things mean for him. But also, to have so much pressure. The pressure to still be black and to be excellent. The pressure to be non-threatening to nonblack people. It’s the pressure to make good grades. It’s all the pressures of life in addition to the pressures of just growing up as a teenager. So I feel like it’s always a double whammy for him.
Kelvin Harrison Jr: I think what he’s trying to figure out is how does it play into [Steve’s] narrative and is his narrative only going to be about his existence as a black man? Does it have any life outside of that? I think that’s what he’s trying to figure out in that courtroom and in that trial. Even in the end, is this the only thing that defines him and is this where everyone sees him at? Is Steve reduced to his skin color or is he also being demonized because of his skin color? It’s a story of searching for an identity, self-exploration, and just a coming of age story…as well as the cautionary tale in some way.
The Movie Blog: Monster premiered at Sundance back in 2018. Coming to Netflix and given the advent of streaming taking over, can you talk about one of the benefits of having this movie be on Netflix?
Kelvin Harrison Jr: [Netflix] is such a huge platform, and I believe that they do such a great role. People are watching movies. Theaters aren’t open. People are watching movies at home; and Netflix was the original streaming platform that everyone of like conceived and said, “This is where I’m going to get my cinema fix.”. We recently just had the Trial of the Chicago 7” and there was such a beautiful response of everyone watching that film on Netflix. I know Malcolm Murray, and my friend John David [Washington] also had a great response of watching that film on Netflix. I’m really excited that it’s going to be in this many homes, and this many people get to sit there and connect with the book. It’s going to be really cool that they can go, “Hey, everyone! [Monster] is going to be out on May 07th!”, and you can go sit with your family and watch it with everyone else. I think that’s really special.
You can also see more of our conversation with Kelvin Harrison Jr. during the AAFCA Roundtable discussion where we spoke to the talented actor in more depth.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. Interview – AAFCA Roundtable:
Director: Anthony Mandler
Writers: Walter Dean Myers (novel), Janece Shaffer
Stars: John David Washington, Jennifer Ehle, Jeffrey Wright