William Jackson Harper gained global fame as Chidi, the indecisive ethics professor with a surprisingly, most un-academic chiselled physique. Now, on the heels of an appearance in Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad—a creative experience which he described as “deeply affecting”—Harper is continuing his leading man hot streak, playing the recently divorced Marcus in HBO Max’s Love Life.
As you might expect from a romantic hero, that means he’ll be once again starring in some shirtless scenes—but showing his body on camera is something that has taken a lot of getting used to, as Harper explained in a recent profile in the LA Times.
“I was terrified of taking my shirt off [on ‘The Good Place’] because I’d always been made fun of as a kid,” he said. “And as I’ve gotten older, and especially as I started to work on TV, I started working out a little bit more and trying to eat a little bit better. Working out was something that was very meditative for me, and I really enjoyed it. But when I got that script, I definitely ramped it up. I found myself at the gym at 5 a.m. before going to set.”
He went on to recount how the self-consciousness that he had when he was younger came back during those shirtless scenes in The Good Place, and said that he doesn’t think he’s alone in feeling that way.
“I was fully prepared to just get made fun of and roasted,” he said. “I do think a lot of dudes have some sort of body dysmorphia, body issues and a lot of fear around it. Men are mean to each other. When I have a show that requires me to take my shirt off, it’s a highly regimented, sometimes destructive process that I go through to get to a place where I feel comfortable with my body.”
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