Laura Harrier may star as Peter Parker’s love interest in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, but had it not been for the fact that one afternoon, Harrier, then a teen growing up outside of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, decided to come straight home after high school, the actress may never have ended up on-screen at all.
It was then that a family friend who worked as a location scout and was over shooting her parents’ house caught sight of Harrier—and, with the suggestion of an agent, effectively launched her modeling career.
Even after moving to New York, though, Harrier was getting restless simply posing on-camera. "It was just kind of this weird job I fell into that wasn’t the plan at all," as she described the gig on a recent afternoon. And so she abandoned her catalogue work and studies at New York University’s free-flowing Gallatin School of Individualized Study in favor of a two-year intensive drama program, then re-emerged ready to act.
“That was my first real job,” Harrier, 27, recalled of Codes of Conduct, a drama by the 12 Years a Slave filmmaker. “I was like, 'What is this? What has my life become?'”
Never mind that the pilot never actually ended up airing: Harrier had officially caught the acting bug, which she showcased the next year, with Natasha Lyonne as her mom, in Carrie Brownstein’s short The Real Real alongside Kim Gordon, Rowan Blanchard, and Mahershala Ali. At that point, though, her even bigger breakthrough was still under wraps: Earlier in 2016, she also found herself getting callbacks and screen tests with the Spider-Man crew, much to her disbelief.
“It literally didn’t cross my mind ever that I was going to get this role, ever,” Harrier said.
And so, in the six weeks Harrier waited to hear back about whether she'd end up playing Liz Allan, essentially Mary Jane's high school-era predecessor, she begrudgingly, impatiently put her life on hold. “I was living my normal life, obviously, but I also couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t talk about it or tell anybody,” she recalled. Which is why, when the big day came, quite unlike the type A high school student she plays, Harrier decided to play hooky.
“I was like, f--- this, I’m not waiting by my phone, I’m just going to get a massage,” she said with a laugh. “Afterwards, I checked my phone and had all these missed calls from my agent, and then I don’t even remember. I think I just sat on the floor and was like, holy s---.”
Fast forward a few months later, and Harrier found herself in Atlanta finally meeting Tom Holland, aka Peter Parker, and Zendaya, her character’s high school classmate who ended up being Harrier’s “buddy through the whole film.” Indeed, it was thanks primarily to Zendaya—or “Z,” as Harrier calls her—that “even though Spider-Man is a huge blockbuster, it really didn’t feel like that,” Harrier said. “It felt like we were making this weird, funny, high school movie. Like just hanging out with a group of friends.”
Thankfully, those friends were there for Harrier both when she was navigating difficulties like keeping her cool around Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr., then doing her own stunts—because, as Harrier reminded, Liz isn't your typical surface-level Mary Jane.
"She’s not there for the boy," Harrier said. "There are a million things that are her focus: school, her career, college applications, all these things, but definitely not the boy. She’s not there just to look pretty and hang out with Peter." (Still, as for the stunts, Harrier would have preferred to use her double, whom the crew seemed mysteriously determined not to turn to: “I didn’t really have a choice. They were like, you’re doing this,” she recalled with a laugh.)
As the film’s July 7 release date finally approaches, a high school reunion with Zendaya and Holland—the latter of whom last teased Harrier endlessly for her tears when shooting wrapped—will soon be in order.
In the meantime, however, Harrier has been keeping busy: Last month, she flew out to Kyoto to hang with Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton’s cruise show, having adapted quite quickly to the fashion world after starting out with the cream of the crop: Her very first show was a coveted front-row spot at Raf Simons’ debut at Calvin Klein earlier this year.
Most days, though, Harrier can be found at home in the somewhat removed, industrial area of Red Hook, or else in her studio in Greenpoint where she does ceramics—a hobby she took up again when the anxiety about the Spider-Man role was getting to her.
She still has worries, but nowadays, they’re quite different: “I just hope I can still take the subway, honestly,” she said of the unknown fandom that awaits her following the film’s release. “I live in Brooklyn, so that would suck.”
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