William Jackson Harper: What To Watch If You Like The Love Life Season 2 Star
The star of HBO Max's anthology series has proven himself many times, on screens both big and small.
For many television lovers, William Jackson Harper is best known for his award-nominated performance as Chidi Anagonye in NBC's The Good Place. But, over the course of the last decade-plus, and especially throughout the past couple of years, the stage/screen actor has proven himself to be an expansive talent, one who balances dramatic work with comedy and only continues to develop his screen presence in a variety of projects.
Most notably of late, Harper stars in HBO Max's Love Life Season 2, though he was also quick to impress in Amazon Prime's The Underground Railroad earlier this year. And, that's naming only a few. If you love the actor, here's what you should stream, including Midsommar!
Love Life Season 2 (HBO Max)
Replacing Anna Kendrick as the anthology show's lead, William Jackson Harper takes the reins of HBO Max's Love Life Season 2 in the part of Marcus Watkins, a newly-single divorcee who traverses through the troubles of modern romance — with infrequent success.
In what might very well be his most prominent lead role to date, Harper takes this opportunity to play a complicated, conflicted, and even sometimes emotionally-chaotic guy who sometimes can't get out of his own way, especially when he walks through the tricky waters of today's dating scene. The result allows the accomplished actor to showcase both his comedic and dramatic skills in equal fashion, providing us with a full-fleshed personality who can be as relatable as he is ridiculous in his clumsy attempts to return to the dating world.
Stream Love Life Season 2 on HBO Max.
The Good Place (Netflix)
In what's quite easily his most recognizable role, William Jackson Harper came to fame through his affable performance as Chidi Anagonye, a kind-natured but often indecisive and overanxious personality, prone to bad decision-making and harboring regrets, in NBC's heaven-sent series, The Good Place.
Though it started as an acclaimed sitcom, the series ultimately became a fertile dramatic opportunity for The Good Place cast and the up-and-coming actor, showcasing the depth of his on-screen talents and the fine complexity that the actor could bring to once-seemingly simple characters. The result is an emotional and Emmy-nominated standout performance that arguably remains his finest — though that could change, as Harper continues to impress with his work outside of NBC's beloved show.
Stream The Good Place on Netflix.
Buy/Rent The Good Place on Amazon.
Midsommar (Amazon Prime/Kanopy)
Ari Aster's Midsommar was one of the most impressive, accomplished horror movies of the last decade. A sophomore feature that builds off the filmmaker's similarly excellent Hereditary, this A24 folk horror proved that the director was no one-hit-wonder and that he was unquestionably a storyteller to watch. In addition to the movie's stunning visuals, unsettling score, and dense screenplay, Midsommar is elevated by the outstanding work of its very dedicated ensemble, including wonderful lead performances from Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor, and commendable turns from Will Poulter and William Jackson Harper.
The latter, as Josh, is often seen as the voice of reason, producing his fair share of criticisms against the disturbing nature of this odd European getaway and the douchey behavior of his supposed friend, while also falling victim to his own ego and need for validation. It's another strong showcase for William Jackson Harper in what's easily one of his best movies to date, and it's a great demonstration of how he will continue to prove himself with other notable performances to come.
Stream Midsommar on Amazon Prime.
Stream Midsommar on Kanopy.
Buy/Rent Midsommar on Amazon.
We Broke Up (Hulu)
There are countless movies centered around people falling in love, sometimes in spite of themselves. But, there are only a select few films about characters falling out of love, and We Broke Up — as its blunt title notes — comfortably (or, rather, pleasantly uncomfortably) fits into the latter category. Starring William Jackson Harper and Aya Cash as Doug and Lori, two longtime lovers who must keep up appearances at Lori's sister's wedding shortly after they've called it quits, writer-director Jeff Rosenberg slightly subverts expectations by making a breezy, low-stakes dramedy in spite of the inner turmoil felt by these once-smitten partners.
Without giving anything away, though, that's about as far as We Broke Up gets to challenging genre cliches. Nevertheless, Aya Cash and William Jackson Harper are consistently appealing in the lead roles, bringing subtle charm and nuanced performances to this perhaps too casual lark, and allowing these characters to feel lived-in and emotionally conflicted. It won't be everyone's pick for date night, but if you love Harper's reflective appeal as an actor, particularly as a burgeoning film star, We Broke Up may ultimately win your favor — even if you don't love it.
Stream We Broke Up on Hulu.
Buy We Broke Up on Amazon.
Dark Waters (Showtime)
A sturdy, immensely well-crafted paranoia drama-thriller of yesteryear made for now, even if audiences sorely overlooked it upon release, Todd Haynes' Dark Waters is the type of mature and meticulously made adult legal drama that is becoming extinct in a time of superhero blockbusters and other big-budget efforts. A cruel irony in a tale like this one, that vigorously fights against Big Corps that continue to fail the common people, yet could only be made with a star like Mark Ruffalo at the forefront of it all.
Nevertheless, as expected, Ruffalo gives a reliably good performance, and the supporting ensemble is filled with other dependable talents, including Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, and William Jackson Harper, to name a mere few. As hand-wringing Taft lawyer James Ross, the sitcom actor is more of a suit than a character in Dark Waters, but that doesn't mean that he fails to hold his own. In the trusted hands of such an esteemed filmmaker like Todd Haynes, Jackson Harper proves himself in what remains one of his finest feature films thus far.
Stream Dark Waters on Showtime.
Buy/Rent Dark Waters on Amazon.
They Remain (Shudder/Vudu)
In a sparse and remote environmental horror-thriller like They Remain, William Jackson Harper must really demonstrate his screen presence. With only himself and Rebecca Henderson as the movie's stars, the actor is given a great deal of screen time to work with the camera and to announce himself as an up-and-coming film star. While the movie itself wasn't exceptionally well-received, Harper did earn his fair share of praise, with critics noting that his increasingly restless character does a great deal to get us into the movie's tense, terse atmosphere.
While it's likely to be a minor work compared to the actor's expanding resume, it was an accomplished early lead role — demonstrating how, even under narrative restraints, William Jackson Harper can comfortably announce himself in a major way and produce a movie star performance that's bellowing but also believable.
Stream They Remain on Shudder.
Stream They Remain on Vudu.
Buy/Rent They Remain on Amazon.
The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime)
Based on Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Amazon Prime's The Underground Railroad, created and directed by Barry Jenkins, easily became one of the year's most acclaimed show's, particularly as critics were quick to hail the prestige mini-series for its humane, haunting depiction of Whitehead's widely-celebrated text. Though it often proved to be a painful premise to cover, especially over the course of 10 episodes, Jenkins found gorgeous moments of gentle humanity to play against the abject terror of this delicate subject matter. Particularly in the show's second half, that difficult balance could be achieved through William Jackson Harper's welcoming performance as Royal, a passionate activist who finds himself in a courtship with the program's lead character, Cora.
For as dire and depressing as The Underground Railroad could often be, Barry Jenkins expertly incorporated elements of inspiring grace, and Jackson Harper's performance was far from an exception in that respect. It also portrays a new side to Harper's screen presence, one that continues to evolve with many of his recent and upcoming projects, which we'll look out for in the days ahead.
Stream The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime.
All Good Things (Hoopla/Kanopy)
You'd be forgiven if you don't remember William Jackson Harper from 2010's mysterious crime drama, All Good Things. Credited as "Moynihan's Assistant," the newcomer made his feature film debut in Andrew Jarecki's fictionalized dramatization of the life of Robert Durst, the convicted murderer who eventually became the dark subject of Jarecki's excellent HBO documentary series, The Jinx.
While the movie itself was ultimately a bit uneven, notably in how its storytelling shakiness came from a filmmaker who was known for his non-fiction work, the performances are all compelling, particularly from our two leads, Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. Alas, Jackson Harper's supporting turn doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, unfortunately, but everyone needs to start their movie careers somewhere. And, this movie is certainly not the worst way to be launched onto the silver screen.
Stream All Good Things on Hoopla.
Stream All Good Things on Kanopy.
Buy/Rent All Good Things on Amazon.
Paterson (Amazon Prime)
Playing the lovelorn Everett, an eccentric, verbose personality who serves as a notable counterbalance to our exceptionally mild-mannered, quietly reflective titular character, William Jackson Harper gave one of his most notable pre-Good Place performances in Jim Jarmusch's excellent 2016 character study, Paterson.
Playing off Adam Driver's soft, casual screen presence, Jackson Harper is given a great deal of creative freedom to adopt an anxious, emotionally-yearning character before he stole a bunch of hearts as Chidi in NBC's afterlife dramedy. While the actor is only able to play second fiddle to Driver's compellingly reserved lead performance, it's certainly a notable standout turn — one that announced that Harper would continue to excel with his future screen credits.
Stream Paterson on Amazon Prime.
Buy/Rent Paterson on Amazon.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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