Exclusive Interview with The After Party’s Harrison Holzer
Harrison Holzer is a star on the rise. His career began in 2014 when at a young age he appeared as Sam Rockwell’s son in Better Living Through Chemistry and starred opposite Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal in Sex Tape. Last year he had a role as one of young Jeffrey Dahmer’s buddies in the indie favorite My Friend Dahmer. Most recently he put Harvard on the back burner to accept his first starring role in this summer’s Netflix Original film The After Party, alongside rapper KYLE (Harvey). Read on to learn why this New Yorker is headed to Harvard and why The After Party was his dream role.
You’re a New York guy. What made you choose Harvard?
Well, I chose Harvard because I was super excited to go to school somewhere that I wasn’t a limited student. I can take classes in whatever subject I really want. I’ve always been fascinated by literature and history and those sorts of things. I think that those two subjects really filter into filmmaking and proper storytelling. A lot of the other schools that I was looking at, if you were a film student, you were just labeled a film student and you just had to take classes in film. But I think that’s actually counterproductive. I think you need interdisciplinary study in order to sort of properly learn how to tell stories for the screen and for everything almost. Harvard just did that really well. They offered me multiple classes that I could take, multiple sort of… branches for me to take advantage of in terms of other subjects. I was just super excited to be a part of the program, which is also new, because recently they’ve been focusing a lot more on the arts, which is great. So there’s a lot of elements that went into me choosing Harvard.
Do you think you’ll become a Celtics fan? (I’m joking of course)
I am a diehard Knicks fan. Die. Hard. No Celtics. No Celtics for me. The Knicks are my team. I mean, I’ve been ride or die Knicks since I was a little kid watching Stephon Marbury and Nate Robinson ball. Now it’s a new era with Kristaps Porzingis. So, nah, nah. No Celtics.
What are you going to major in?
I’ve always planned on majoring in filmmaking and my eventual goal is to get behind the camera. I’d love to write and produce eventually. I was planning to use my college education towards that, but when I got this opportunity… what’s better than hands-on experience and actually going and doing something, right? I mean, there’s nothing more valuable than that in terms of experience in the film industry. To work with these amazing people… I mean, KYLE, who I’ve worshiped since I was a kid. I remember being at my Bar Mitzvah, listening to “Beautiful Loser”, which is his first album, and just having a great time, you know, turning up. So to meet him was incredible. And to do this thing with him was a dream and then also Ian (Edelman), our incredible director who wrote this amazing script. To be in something like this has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. So, I was really honored.
Were you a fan of hip-hop before The After Party?
Are you kidding me? I’ve been obsessed with hip-hop since I was like 13-years-old. I absolutely love it. Just to be involved in a project which is totally hip-hop centric was incredible. I’m not going to lie, we were definitely inspired by hip-hop while we were shooting. Kyle and I would would have a lot of sing-alongs, a lot of dancing going on. It was great. It was a really good time.
Talk to me about shooting in your home town. What was that experience like?
It shot in New York City, which is another thing which was awesome for me because I’m born and raised here. I love it here. I mean, to shoot a movie here… it’s been a dream of mine too since I was a little boy, so that was awesome. But also, the thing about this story is yes, it’s hip-hop centric, but it’s a lot more than it appears on the exterior. What it boils down to is the story about two best friends who have been best friends for almost their entire young adult lives and they’ve been hustling and grinding in pursuit of this dream, which both of them have. It’s a shared dream and that’s eventually rising to fame, to hip-hop superstardom in the rap game. So, if you look past all the rappers and the parties and Gucci everything, it’s these kids who really show loyalty and persistence and sort of a lot of hustle in reaching this dream and reaching this goal before they have to sort of pursue backup plans.
There were some heavy hitters on this project. Who were you most starstruck by on the set of The After Party?
It was really amazing because it was almost like meeting a bunch of my idols in person. I was seriously nervous, but then the minute I met them I was absolutely disarmed because, I mean, I follow all these guys on social media obviously. So you see them there and you’re sort of like, “Oh, are they going to be the same person?” And for a lot of them it was just the exact same. Incredible. If I had to key in on one, meeting DJ Khaled was incredible. Oh my goodness. I love him. I mean, I love his son too. Who doesn’t love Asahd? Asahd is the greatest. And one more, I’ve got to say Designer! That guy was incredible. It was amazing to meet him and we bonded over the fact that we were similar in age too. I was like, “Hey man, you’re 20, I’m 19 and this is pretty cool, you know, we’re like the same age.” He’s like, “We are. Yeah, that’s really cool.”
Talk about this role and what it was like to play Jeff.
I’ve always said that this is the role for me. The first time I read it, I needed to play this character. The first time I read it I was just like, “This is the character I’ve always dreamt of playing.” Jeff doesn’t just have no filter, he literally plunges into negative filter, which is so impressive. His uber-confidence almost sometimes verges on abrasiveness, but Jeff is a very multifaceted character. His heart is in the right place. It’s just his judgment is clouded by trying to fit this image of what’s cool in the hip-hop culture. So he sort of lost sight of who he really is. There are a lot of dimensions to Jeff, which was a lot of fun to play around with too. But also just that manager who is equally important, but is always on the sidelines, not the center of attention. It’s so important to shed light on those types of characters because their stories are really interesting too. I mean inspiration was definitely a little mixed between Seth from Superbad, Jonah Hill’s character, and Ari Gold. Ari Gold is my guy. I grew up watching Ari, so I’ve always wanted to play that sort of manager/agent type person. To have that kill for your client and say whatever you want at anytime mentality was just a lot of fun to play around with.
This sounds a little bit like Donald Glover’s character in Atlanta, only he’s super chill.
Yeah, absolutely. I watch Atlanta too, so big fan of that show, big fan of Donald Glover. I mean he’s just the most creative guy. What I’ll say is I think these stories are similar and that they’re about that rapper and manager dynamic or, you know, the talent manager, which is a really cool thing to explore obviously. But the stories are different in that with us it’s about sort of two young kids who are grinding, who are on the come-up almost and are trying to make stuff work, right? But there’s a real sort of deadline for them. There’s a real like “this date or bust” because if they don’t get a record deal by this one day he’s going into the military and I’m going to college. So there’s that pressing story, that pressing steady setting of you’re running out of time, you have X amount of hours left to get this record deal. What are you going to do with that amount of time you have left? So in addition to that sort of pressing atmosphere, it’s sort of like the end of innocence. Because above that, these two kids know that if they don’t get this done and in this one night, they’re going to have to go on different paths and most likely not see each other for a long time, which is hard for best friends to accept.
That’s pretty deep. (Laughs) I think you’ll do well at Harvard. Let’s turn to something a little darker now. What was it like to play a close friend of a serial killer in My Friend Dahmer?
The thing about My Friend Dahmer, which we all were sort of fascinated by from the get go, was that it keys in on a very particular window in Dahmer’s life. It’s a very specific sort of point in time before he became the monster that all of us know him to be. So it was interesting and I think it was a really cool angle on which to shed light on this character.
I played the happy-go-lucky best friend who really thinks nothing of it. When we were discovering our characters, we sort of thought, “Alright, we’re going to do a middle between two extremes. We’re going to have the kid who feels sympathy for him. The kid who sort of is on the fence and then there’s just me, who really is like, ‘I don’t really care about Dahmer.’ I’m just in it to have a great time at high school and to sort of take them at face value.” But just working as an actor on that film, it was definitely taxing. Just being on that set, it was really heavy every day.
But I’ve got to say it really inspired me too because I was surrounded by so many kids who were my age who are just so talented. Alex, Tommy, and Ross, all three of them were incredibly talented. It made me think, “Damn, I gotta step up my game.” These kids are really great and they’re coming in everyday ready. So I was like, man, this is sort of inspiring that there are a bunch of kids my age and that this is going to be, hopefully, the next generation of kids who are able to make film.
You’re a self-proclaimed comedy guy. What is your favorite TV comedy or favorite comedy film of all time?
My favorite TV comedy of all time? I gotta split it between two. It’s going to go to Entourage – just because I’ve been obsessed with that show since I was like 10 years old – then Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’m a huge fan of Larry David. I think he’s hysterical and I love how that show is sort of inspired a lot by Improv because that’s my favorite thing to do is sort of just play around and riff and have fun with the script. So I think those are my two favorite comedy shows.
Everyone’s binging something this summer. What is your summer binge?
Recently I started watching this show on Netflix called Disenchantment, which is created by the same guys that created The Simpsons and it’s quite funny. I love Eric Andre, so just hearing him as a voice on that show just cracks me up every time. It doesn’t matter what he’s saying really. It’s just, I laugh so it’s all good. I’ve been re-binging the show on Netflix called The League, which is about the fantasy football league with Mark Duplass and Nick Kroll and all these incredible people and it’s frigging hilarious, man. That’s such a funny show. So those are the two I got to say that right now are on my radar.
Completely off-topic but you’re a young guy living in New York City. Describe your perfect date-night!
I’ve always loved Broadway and there’s just so many amazing plays that are happening in New York. It’s such an incredibly vibrant art community and just to be surrounded by these things is something that I think New Yorkers take for granted a lot, but I try not to. I think the start of it would have to be just whatever play is killing it right now. Get the best tickets possible, you know, treat her right. Top row, everything. Go watch a show and enjoy that. Afterwards, just probably dinner at a Mexican restaurant, just because I love Mexican food. Maybe Rosa Mexicano downtown or something like that. And, I love walking. So I would end the night… hopefully we’d be downtown or something like that, and then just walk. Walk Uptown, walk through Times Square, walked through Union Square. This is just such an amazing neighborhood because within a matter of 20 blocks you can be surrounded by something which is totally different than what you were previously surrounded by. I think there’s a lot of pleasure that can be taken in walking around the city.
Last question. Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us so what are a huge nerd about?
I got you, immediately. I am literally wearing my Avengers boxers as we speak. I am huge into the Avengers. Like I love Marvel. I’m a Marvel nerd. I grew up reading comics and everything. My friends sort of use me as the dictionary/Bible of Marvel information. They’re always wanting to go to the movies with me because if there’s a question about what’s going on, they can be like, “Harry, what’s happening right now?” And I’m like, “Dude, it’s easy. Thanos is trying to collect the Soul Stone, like, obviously. What else is he trying to do?” So, you know, I’m sort of like an encyclopedia of Marvel knowledge, I like to think. I’m a big Iron Man fan too. Just huge into Iron Man, huge into Robert Downey Jr. That’s one of my favorite actors right there, too. I could talk nerdy with you about Marvel for hours, literally hours upon hours upon hours. Let’s talk about Avengers 4, let’s talk about what’s going on in this next movie, who knows is Thanos going to win, not sure we shall see.
The After Party premiered on Netflix, Friday, August 24th. Check out the adventures of Harry and Kyle and then keep your eye on this kid. I think he’s going places! You can follow Harrison on Twitter & Instagram.