The Season 2 star tells how the scene in which he walks around NYC with Jessica Williams “deviates from our idea of romantic comedy.”
Welcome to My Favorite Moment! In a new week-long series, IndieWire spoke to the actors behind some of our favorite TV appearances of the year about how the on-screen moment they’re most proud of came about.
The gift (and some would argue the curse) of a romantic comedy is that it tends to follow familiar beats like the sweet meet, the breakup, the reconciliation, and even a glimpse of the couple’s happy endings that just needed is to be well executed to make the project work.
Revolving around a protagonist’s first love to lasting love, the HBO Max anthology series “Love Life” impressively delivers the tropes of the genre while also answering the question with its 10-episode narrative what happens in it In-between moments that are overlooked in the film version of a relationship.
Season 2 star William Jackson Harper, who plays Marcus, a New York City book editor whose life is turned upside down after one fateful night he strikes an instant connection with auction house employee Mia (Jessica Williams). , tells IndieWire via Zoom that one of those moments from the episode “Becca Evans Part II” has become his favorite part of the season.
When Marcus finds out he accidentally got Becca (Leslie Bibb), a work colleague he happened to be dating, pregnant, he finds he can’t help but rip the band-aid off and break the news to his longtime crush, Mia , who both comforts him and talks about the similar issues she faces in her love life.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and rearranged to improve the flow of the conversation.
IndieWire: Is there a moment from Love Life Season 2 that you’re really proud of?
William Jackson Harper: Honestly, my favorite moment, and there are several moments, is when Marcus and Mia reconnect because of Becca [being pregnant], and they just take that long walk through Central Park and hang out for the day. It’s a pretty special episode in general, but it was great just existing with Jess, you know? I’m such a fan. I find them amazing and interesting. But it’s also one of those things that’s so rare to see something on TV that we’re not trying to get anywhere. It’s not like we’re leaving and being interrupted by the next plot point. There are only two people. This is a big moment in Marcus’ life and I think it’s really important for me to just live with it and have faith that things will happen, especially for television.
Sarah Shatz/HBO Max
What discussions went into this scene? What strikes me is how Mia is more empathetic than expected to the news. I expected her to roast Marcus.
Well, it’s a moment where they really stop by and meet where they both are [at]. She just shows him so much compassion in that moment. And there’s something about, I’ve had these long conversations, not about this specific thing, but I’ve had long conversations with people that are right there where we walk around and talk for hours. And those moments are always very meaningful moments for me, where you discover something about yourself or that person. And they are always very special. It’s nice to have what the episode is, just two people learning from each other, learning new things from each other, and finally, after all this time, being able to just be raw and vulnerable while they’re lost. I think she’s lost in her own way but takes the time to be there for him in that moment. And when she tells him that she had an abortion and what that did to her and that they can both be there for each other in that moment, that’s why that moment works so well.
It has such a big impact on me because they’ve been going through this whole messy thing for a while, but they ended up in a place where they can be friends. There’s a connection they both don’t want to give up, so instead of meeting up at a restaurant and having a limited amount of time, it’s like, ‘We’re going to talk more. We’ll talk until we’re done.” And it’s not going to be indoors. It’s not used at all like some sort of pressure cooker. It’s a “What do you do when the world is flipped on its axis and the only person you have is the person right there with you?” And so I think that feels just wonderful to me – especially for television. Nobody will come and disturb you. There is no “We have to get somewhere. I’m on my way to do something else. why don’t you go with me I’m going to turn this in, and then we’ll get on with the story.” It’s just, “We’re going to sit in this moment and just be lost.” That feels really human.
Is that also the nice part of being a TV show? More time for a more nuanced story beat like this?
Yes, I feel like the whole series strays from a lot of romantic comedy tropes. Marcus is not a guy who gets heartbroken because something is out of his control. He’s very actively involved in how his whole life was blown up – it’s his fault. A lot of what happens to him is at his expense, and often times unfair things have to happen to them in order to build sympathy for your central character in such stories they don’t deserve, and so on A lot of bad things happen to Marcus are that he fucking deserves this shit and he needs to grow up. And so I think that’s a thing that the show is already doing. The show already breaks with everything being someone else’s fault and he just gets piled on, the show breaks that already but then I think they’re not supposed to be clumsy and cute around each other just adults who deal with that argue something I don’t think anyone is ever really prepared for another exit. We take a “Before Sunrise” moment, a breath, so we can get to know them a little better and Marcus and Mia really get to know each other. And without saying it exactly, you get a deeper understanding of what makes the other tick, where they actually come from and what their fears actually are. It’s really vulnerable. They’re just very vulnerable with each other in a way. And for a very long time, in a way that I feel deviates from our idea of romantic comedy.
The scene seems to establish that regardless of their romantic relationship, Mia is that person Marcus can go to and be his most vulnerable self with.
I think it hints at certain things. They are very much themselves in this moment and they are around each other and they do that immediately. From the moment we first meet them, they just feel comfortable with each other. I’ve definitely had those moments in my life where there are people that I immediately feel comfortable with and I just say anything and they understand, and they say anything and I understand. And even if we disagree or misunderstand certain things, we’re still on the same wavelength, and that’s okay. It’s okay to make a mistake, to express yourself incorrectly, maybe to reveal something you didn’t really intend. It’s a rare thing to have that person where you don’t think ahead about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to act. You’re just being yourself. And I have the feeling that with Marcus and Mia they immediately feel that way. They come straight out and this connection almost feels like flirting, even if it’s not. And I think this [scene] Just keep diving in.
Sarah Shatz / HBO Max
How did you prepare for the scene? Was that during a time in production when you and Jessica were already a well-oiled machine ready to settle in?
We were, yes. By the time this came out we had worked together a lot and we had a natural feeling – I just feel comfortable with Jessica and I’m also in awe of her and I think she’s really cool, so that flows into the chemistry. There are certain things that I feel as Will about Jessica, that Marcus feels about Mia where she’s just cool and she’s really good looking and she’s funny and “I can’t believe I can hang out with this person, I know I don’t want to mess this up,” all those things. To let the energy I have towards her come through and kind of avoid her. And so I think by that point we had already done a lot of deep dives on some scenes and worked together a lot. And I think I’ve been longing for where we just need to be together without it’s about something else that’s — I mean, it’s about something else that’s happening, but at this moment it’s about us just connect. And I was really looking forward to that at this point in the season. I was geeked to do that and have a whole bunch of long scenes with Jess and just riff it and try it. That’s why it’s such a great moment for me, that’s why I enjoyed it so much. But I think it also plays really well just because we both enjoy working together. We like to really take our time with some scenes and just exist and live.
In general, how have people reacted to this season? Because I think a lot of people have said, “I’ve never seen anything that matches my experience on TV before.”
That feels great. I mean, we’re just trying to be honest. Knowing that it landed and that it was accepted and that it feels unique is really rewarding. I had a great time doing the show, but it was also a lot of work and it was really demanding and challenging in a lot of ways. For that work to be recognized and for her to have spoken to people that I wanted to speak to and have them say, “Yes, I understand,” all of that feels great. It just feels good to be heard. And it feels good to be a part of something that says so many things I’ve felt and so many things I’ve wanted to explore, so many things I’ve wanted to see explored on TV. That it feels outstanding and that it feels different and honest and unique just makes me feel less crazy. Sometimes I ask myself, “Am I just not looking at the right things, that I just don’t see this kind of stuff? Because it has to exist.” This portrayal of black love is not common or easily accessible to such a wide audience. The fact that it feels different and special really makes me feel seen and a part of the community, which I really appreciate.
Love Life Season 2 is available to stream on HBO Max.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/05/william-jackson-harper-love-life-favorite-scene-hbo-max-1234728255/ Love life: William Jackson Harper opens up about his favorite scene from Season 2