Deaf Actor Russell Harvard on Playing a Villain on ‘Fargo’: “I’m just so happy that I was given the opportunity to play somebody that’s not myself”

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Though debate continues on non-disabled actors being cast in roles of disabled characters when there are many disabled actors looking for work, many roles that portray disabled characters are not always ones that actors are able to sink their teeth into. For example, there’s often little opportunity for actors with disabilities to play villainous characters because disabled actors are often cast in positive supporting roles that highlight how they overcome their disabilities. In contrast, deaf actor Russell Harvard stars on TV’s Fargo as a deaf hit man named Mr. Wrench. In conversation with NPR, Harvard spoke about how happy he is to have the opportunity to play a villainous character.

Harvard confesses that he’s grateful for the chance to be a bad guy. He says, “I’m just so happy that I was given the opportunity to play somebody that’s not myself, that’s not me — you know, the villain, if you will. … I’ve always been motivated to play something like that.”

Because Harvard’s character is paired with Adam Goldberg‘s Mr. Numbers, who speaks for the duo, Harvard doesn’t have to be concerned with using his voice (previously, Harvard had to learn how to speak with a British accent when he starred in the off-Broadway play Tribes, a major challenge for someone who was born deaf in Texas). He explains, “This character is really nice because he doesn’t have to use his voice; the communication skills are just through signing. And Mr. Numbers interprets for me in the show, which doesn’t really happen often on TV, so that’s nice.”

Above all, Harvard is happy to be playing a character who isn’t defined by being deaf. He says, “The character is not really specific about being deaf, or having any related deaf issues. It’s just Fargo, period.”

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