Ian Harvie Source: Instagram

EDGE Interview: Comedian Ian Harvie Was Terrified at Working with Larry David

Steve Duffy READ TIME: 8 MIN.

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" pushed the envelope in such a way that it is surprising there wasn't more pushback at creator and star Larry David. The most likely reason is that David's often questionable choices and comments were seen as just part of his irascible personality. In other words, he remains beyond being cancelled. Whatever the reason, the show's final season (its 12th), which ended on April 7, was filled with such moments – none funnier than a sequence on its penultimate episode (which aired on March 31).

The title – "Ken/Kendra" – hints at its central joke. On it, superstar Bruce Springsteen wants to meet David due to his much-publicized arrest in Georgia. David had given a bottle of water to a woman in a voting line, oblivious to an election law that forbade such an action, and was arrested. He had no intention to become a firebrand, but he loves the attention and such perks as meeting Springsteen.

Larry also meets – or rather reacquaints – himself with someone from his past: Springsteen's manager Ken, who once was Kendra, a woman Larry use to have sex with, but always on the floor. ("I never took you for a floor fucker," says Bruce.)

"You've changed ... quite a lot," Larry says to the sexy man, played by trans actor Ian Harvie. And while Larry insists that Ken is Ken and Kendra is Kendra and never the twain should meet, Springsteen corrects him: "Ken is Ken is Ken" – an important message to be said on what was on Trans Day of Visibility (March 31).

Harvie's appearance is the latest in his evolving career that has seen him on such shows as "Transparent," where he played Dale, "Will & Grace," and "Mistresses." He came out to his parents as a lesbian at 19, but had a revelation 10 years later when he heard author Leslie Feinberg ("Stone Butch Blues") open up about being a trans man in a lecture and invite Harvie to a support group. He became sober, transitioned, and begin his stand-up career in 2002, first in his home state of Maine, then Boston, followed by Los Angeles, where he eventually located. In 2006 he began to tour with Margaret Cho. In Australia he premiered his solo show, "Parts Sold Separately," at a comedy festival, and followed it a second solo piece, "Balls OUT with Ian Harvie." In 2017 he was one of six prominent trans actors (in collaboration with GLAAD and ScreenCrush) who sent an open letter to the Hollywood establishment calling for fair casting practices for transgender roles.

EDGE spoke to Harvie about working with Larry David, how he improvised the scene, and being a trans actor in Hollywood.

Editor's note: Introduction by Robert Nesti.

Ian Harvie (standing). Bruce Springsteen, Larry David and Jeff Garlin (seated) on the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode "Ken/Kendra."
Source: HBO

EDGE: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ian Harvie: I'm a comic, actor, writer, and a new director. I just directed my first short, which will be at festivals this coming season. I do everything that anybody asks me. I love to be scared out of my mind and challenged with something absolutely creative. I was terrified went I was asked to do "Curb" with Larry David and Bruce Springsteen. It was absolutely terrifying, but it was absolutely so much fun.

EDGE: Were you a fan of "Curb Your Enthusiasm?"

Ian Harvie: Huge fan, and equally, if not more of a fan, of Bruce Springsteen. When I'm traveling or working on something, I often have Bruce playing in the background. I just love his music, and he is a political hero of mine and has always seemed to be standing up for the right things. When they told me in the costume department that I was going to play his manager, I was in disbelief. I couldn't believe that I was going to be in the same room as him.

EDGE: How much of a script are you given prior to shooting?

Ian Harvie: None. There's no script. They just said, "You're somebody who used to know Larry a long time ago, and you two fucked. We don't care how you get to it." My bullet points were basically, I'm Bruce's manager, I already know Larry, and we used to fuck. Larry had his own bullet points. Bruce had his own bullet points. We all hit those bullet points, and that's how the story works.

EDGE: Were your improvising skills good?

Ian Harvie: I definitely need to nail them. When I got a call from my manager saying my agent had another audition for "Curb," I was so excited. It's going to be an on-tape audition and I needed to nail it, so I called my good friend, Ray Abruzzo, who played Little Carmine on "The Sopranos." He is a phenomenal actor, and he read off camera with me and he is a huge fan of the show. He sounded just like Larry, and he knows all of Larry's isms. He fully brought Larry to my audition and allowed me to get there with him while he was off camera. I really don't know if I would have gotten it had it not been for Ray.

I sent in my tape. A couple of days later, I heard I got it. Incredible. At that point, I wasn't told who I was going to play the manager of.

EDGE: What is it like to work on your scene?

Ian Harvie: First, I went to the costume department and the designer said, "Did they tell you who you're going to play the manager of?" And I said, "No." And she said, "It's Bruce Springsteen." I thought she was kidding, and then I burst into tears because I'm such a huge fan. I just love him and listen to his music all the time. Then I thought I really have to bring it. This is high stakes. I couldn't believe that I was going to go be on set with Larry David and his crew of professional actors and fucking Bruce Springsteen. No pressure at all. I just got to freaking bring it. When I walk on set to do my scene, something just took over me in that moment, and you just don't have an opportunity to let yourself get scared or feel any self-pity – you just have to deliver. I just needed to do it. I knew I was totally capable. I really wanted their love, approval, and respect in the scene. I'm proud of myself that I didn't crack.

EDGE: As a huge fan of the Boss, what was it like being in his presence?

Ian Harvie: He is such a calm presence. He's one of those people that is not a loud talker. I remember how everybody was waiting for him to arrive on set. We shot both those scenes at his house and Jeff and Susie's house on the same day. There were a couple blocks from each other on location. Everybody was just waiting with bated breath for him to arrive. Everyone was looking out the window of the house waiting for his car to pull up. The tension and the excitement were palpable.

And then you meet him, and he's just this very soft-spoken guy. I was trying to act normal. At one point, we were standing off to the side and I was trying to have some small talk with him. What do you say to a man like him? So, I told him that I listened to his autobiography while driving across country, which I loved, and that I am a huge fan. He responded with, "Thanks for reading my book." Then I asked if there was anything that he likes to do in his free time, anything that you love, and, of course, he said music. I felt like an idiot, because anybody who is that good at their craft, of course it's what they do in their free time. He was very kind and sweet. To be in his presence just felt unbelievable, and if it was not caught on camera, I still wouldn't believe it.

by Steve Duffy

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