Actor David Harbour has had a long career. From theater (The Rainmaker, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), to TV (Law & Order, The Newsroom) and film (The Equalizer, Brokeback Mountain)--he's done it all. But he's never received the attention he's had since playing Police Chief Jim Hopper in the Netflix series Stranger Things. "God yeah, I've really done so much work and no one's cared," Harbour told host Ophira Eisenberg. "I have people who are like, 'Oh man, you were good in that,' but at the time I never had anything hit."
All that's changed since Stranger Things became an overnight sensation. The sci-fi horror is set in the 1980s, and follows the disappearance of middle schooler Will Byers. Harbour plays a disgruntled small town police chief who he admits is, at first, hard to love. Harbour told Eisenberg how much of the character was on the page, and how much he brought himself. "Well I think he was thinner on the page. I decided to eat a lot of cheeseburgers." But in all seriousness, Harbour thinks our culture has "too much of a weird obsession with body...I would like to see sexiness sort of embodied in people's real bodies, as opposed to those bodies that are just full of narcissism." He admits that when he first saw the script, he thought, "I'm going to get a trainer, I'm going to eat organic chicken...I'm going to look ripped!" but thankfully his acting coach set him straight. "Play this character...This guy doesn't go to the gym," he advised.
Harbour has been taking it easy lately, as he is still recovering from a snapped Achilles tendon he got while — get this — playing Achilles in a production of Troilus and Cressida at Shakespeare in the Park. He only got through six performances before the injury, and shared the story with Eisenberg of just how literally some people take the phrase "the show must go on."
For Harbour's special game, we combined two of his favorite things--Shakespeare and Dungeons and Dragons--in an amazing trivia adventure! Eisenberg and Coulton guide Harbour through a dungeon where he encounters a series of Shakespearean creatures. Listen as he goes up against them and "levels up" with his trusty 20-sided die.
On narcissism in Hollywood
Sometimes I feel like those superheroes, if you threw a cookie at them, they would be more terrified than the villain, because they might have to eat a carbohydrate.
On staying in character in between takes
If there's an energy between certain characters, I try to preserve that energy, or make it as authentic as possible.
On the goal of acting
If acting has any meaning, it is so that we can have greater empathy for other people. And I do get people from all over the world tweeting me things like, "Hopper makes me want to be a better man."