David Harbour on Building a Character, Finding Contradictions and Mastering an Accent

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David Harbour: "My process always kind of starts with the script and then gets very personal as I go along."

“My process always kind of starts with the script and then gets very personal as I go along.” – David Harbour

Stranger Things star David Harbour continues to win over the Comic-Con crowd with his role choices as he steals the show portraying an out-of-shape Red Guardian (Russia’s version of Captain America) in Black Widow. Though largely a comic relief character, Red Guardian is also a depiction of an over-the-hill superhero that still has a fire in his belly. In an interview with Variety about portraying Red Guardian, Harbour speaks about how he got the right “voice” for the character — both the overall portrayal and the character’s accent.

Harbour points to the screenplay as presenting a three-dimensional character that he felt he could get into. He explains, “Starting with the script, there are all these colors that are contradictions to him. I really liked not shying away from those contradictions. I think people are full of contradictions and they play different roles in different scenarios. Who you are when you talk to your dad is completely different than who you are when you talk to your wife or your husband or your kids. Those contradictions are what made him great.”

With that said, Harbour notes that the script is where he starts building his character. He says, “My process always kind of starts with the script and then gets very personal as I go along.”

Of course, one of the major challenges for Harbour was mastering the Red Guardian’s Russian accent, though he admits that because of the world Marvel has created he didn’t feel like he had to have a pitch-perfect accent. He says, “Russian accents are very hard. I do find that when I work on accents it’s hard to be technical with them…If you’re not careful, sometimes it can become an Italian mobster. I would find myself slipping into Tony Soprano, and that was bad. Accents are tough, but it’s fun because you have a little bit of a buffer in the sense of, it’s not a full-on documentary here. It’s a version of Russia that is populated with superheroes and international people. I do the best I can, but also allow the character to be the character and more than just the accent.”

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