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article imageBroadway star Sam Harris talks about 'HAM: A Musical Memoir' Special

By Markos Papadatos     Nov 30, 2020 in Entertainment
Broadway star Sam Harris chatted with Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos about the film version of "HAM: A Musical Memoir," which is acquired by Global Digital Releasing.
The movie will make its theatrical debut on Laemmle's virtual platform on December 3, before heading to BroadwayHD, the premier subscription service for live theater, where it will begin streaming exclusively on January 7, 2021.
On doing the film version of HAM: A Musical Memoir, the Tony-nominated actor said, "I'd done the stage show a lot (in NY and LA) so I knew what I knew, but with the film, there were changes with blocking for the camera and finding my light in different ways. Sort of 'unlearning' things. Performance-wise, the camera obviously makes things more intimate, so in some of the softer scenes, I knew I had to pull in a bit, be more still."
"We shot two live shows in one day, so there was the energy of the audience, and I didn’t want to stop and retake anything. I wanted the rocket to launch and go. So we did them straight through. Then the next day we did pick-ups without an audience to get some closeups. And then I slept for two days… it’s a tough show physically, vocally, and emotionally," he said.
He opened up about his award nominations that he has received, which include Tony nods and Drama Desk Award nominations. "As much as I’d like to say that awards and reviews don’t matter to me, that would be a lie. Of course, they do. It means you’ve been acknowledged for the work you did. It means your work resonated with people and it was good enough to be noticed. I won’t say that 'It’s nice just to be mentioned.' I’ve been nominated for things and I’ve won things. Winning is better," he said.
Regarding his future plans, he said, "My new book, The Substance of All Things, was just released and I’m so proud of this work. It’s my first literary fiction. The response has been pretty extraordinary, and I’m grateful. Substance took four years to write, so it's not a small thing. And I need to start the next one."
"I am also developing a television comedy with some pretty amazing people," he said. "Covid has mucked everything up, so were further behind than we would have been. But if I’m anything, it’s tenacious. I work very very hard. I think, so often in this business, that when things take so long to develop, it’s easy to give up."
"This film, HAM, came from my first book HAM: Slices of a Life, which came out in 2014. From there it became a series of readings, then was developed into the show, then played in NY and then LA, and was finally shot. It was years to get to this point. And it was worth it," he added.
For young and aspiring actors, he encouraged them to "say yes." "Do everything you can to work and hone your craft. Be in the world. See and do things outside of your comfort zone. Always observe people. Sit on a park bench and study them. You will always find fascinating things, quirks, moods, character specifics to bank for when you need them," he said.
"Read. Watch films with the great actors of the 20th century. Know who they were, be a historian. Hang out with people who are not actors. Above all, if this is really really what you want to do, then stay strong and keep going. It can be a nasty, inconsistent business. No one and I mean no one, who has had a long career has not had ups and downs. You just keep going – and by staying curious, you get better along the way," he explained.
Regarding his daily motivations, he stated, "My son. And my husband. They are the center of my world. Work-wise, I’m not good with time on my hands so I am pretty much always creating something. During Covid, since I can’t perform live, I am writing – but I can also spend the day in the garden or in the kitchen. Sometimes painting. I find that creative people create in many ways. There is a tendency to look at the world as an art project. Otherwise, between politics and Covid, I would crawl into a hole."
On his definition of the word success, he said, "Success can mean being acknowledged, having created enough of a career to be known for something which brings choices. Success is choices. And I don’t mean for this to sound corny – but success is a very personal thing to me. It has to do with knowing I did my best work, work that I am proud of, work that I want to go on after me. With this film, we have something that is so so personal. It’s autobiographical after all. I share my deepest fears and experiences in this piece. So, while I really really want it to be seen by a lot of people and gain kudos where we can, I have already succeeded."
"On a personal level, success is being a good husband, dad, and friend. I know a lot of people who have 'succeeded' hugely in their careers, but have not invested in their personal lives because they are so driven in their work. Then they wake up, years later, when the glitter has faded, and they’ are alone. That takes work and selflessness. Which, by the way, is the best thing an actor can do since it’s such a self-involved business. Ego can kill you. We need people to keep us grounded. We need to be of service," he elaborated.
He remarked about HAM: A Musical Memoir, "See it. Since this is a film of a live show, it was very important that it has the rhythm and feel of a film rather than just another archival video of a stage production. We’ve all seen those. I do think we've accomplished that. When I say 'we' I do mean 'we' – it took a lot of people to get this from page to stage to film."
"HAM, as I’ve said, is so very personal – some deep dark truths that I’m exposing to the film audience. But it’s also quite funny. Life works that way, right? Making fun of myself is one of my favorite sports. I hope that, though the specifics of the story are mine, that all people can relate to it in their own way. It is a story of triumph. Of determination. Of overcoming obstacles. And we can all use a little dose of that these days. We have to find commonalities in ourselves, rather than the division. We need to find the humanity in ourselves. And I hope that HAM gives a sense of that," he concluded.
To learn more about showtimes for HAM: A Musical Memoir, check out this website.
Sam Harris in  HAM: A Musical Memoir.
Sam Harris in "HAM: A Musical Memoir."
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