Interview with History Channel’s ‘Project Blue Book’ actor Michael Harney

Actor Michael Harney (left) in ‘Project Blue Book’. Photo courtesy of History Channel.

Michael Harney considers himself grateful and lucky to be a part of History Channel’s new hit series “Project Blue Book.” The new show airs on Tuesdays and has quickly grabbed viewers’ attention. Harney spoke highly of the cast and crew and that they are all trying to create something really cool for everybody to embrace so they can feel good for a couple of hours. When it comes to believing in UFOs, he believes that there is a tremendous amount of information out there and people like Doctor Hynek have done some amazing work in demystifying what is real and what is not.

After starting his career in social work and prison reform, the Bronx, NY born actor has come full circle with roles in “Orange Is the New Black” and “Weeds” and “NYPD Blue.” He is also well known for his role in “Deadwood” and can be spotted in films such as “Erin Brockovich,” “Ocean’s 13,” and the list about goes on forever.

Colleen Bement: Let’s start out, of course, with “Project Blue Book.” General Hugh Valentine and no doubt you’re just perfect for the role. What can you share about your experience on the set filming the series?

Michael Harney: Well it’s a professional set, so we all come to work ready to go. I’m pretty quiet in the way that I work. I just create a world and I sort of start living in that world before I start to shoot. I sort of try to stay in that place for a while. I go to talk to people and socialize, but minimally. I have to say the biggest thing that all are pulling for each other to create something really special. The talent is really top level from the producers, the directors, the actors, the writers, everybody; set designers, costume designers, just everybody is top shelf. I’ve been around for a while so I really feel that. It’s really sort of a group effort to make something that’s extremely special and something that will last. It’s really something.

CB: What you think about UFO’s and all the evidence out there?

MH: I think to demystify the information it’s important to look solid research among that research there’s Doctor Hynek, but there are a plethora of researchers who have done tremendous work. There’s also a tremendous amount of information out there in interview form with people that have top-level security clearance in the military who have broken rank and talked about the existence of extraterrestrial life. So far in terms of the research that I’ve done it appears that they’ve been around here for so long and that there seems to be investment in the idea that time travel might have something to do with it that we’re dealing with people of species or being from thousands of years in the future that come back to visit us through time travel. They’re advanced so there’s no real intention to harm. The intention as far as I can see so far is to help or to support. I’m really kind of in the rabbit hole still so there’s a lot that I don’t know. Even that which I’m seeing and reading, I’m open and I’m able to utilize the information that I’m getting to fill out this character that I’m doing.

CB: I remember you well as your character of Sam Healy in ‘Orange is the New Black” and your character in “Weeds.” I loved all of those shows. I know my characters. How did you prepare? You really came full circle to play Sam Healy.

MH: I watch a lot of footage. Usually physical life is very important to me, so I watch how people move, and in the case of Ouellette (Weeds) I was around a lot of guys that had that job in New York growing up. I sort of just allowed myself to absorb all of the historial information and then I would read as much as I could. I watched a lot of footage of the guys in New York on the job.

With Healy I’ve done work with prisoner reform when I was very young in college. I worked a lot with social and civil rights with a professor of mine. It was very interesting when that (Orange) came around full circle. I worked with The Fortune Society and the United Church of Christ working on getting people who were incarcerated released who had really made a change in maximum security prison. Some went in with a third-grade education and came out with the equivalent of a law degree. I knew something about it. I had been up to the prisons to visit inmates and it’s something I’ll be interested in until the very end. I felt very privileged to be in that position.

CB: I think I read that you were planning to be a social worker?

MH: I thought about it for a while. I also was thinking about the priesthood when I was in my early 20s, and I didn’t do either at the time. I ended up falling, by accident, into an acting class that that just kind of really grabbed me. I fell into a class in college. I had a professor there who went to the Royal Accademy of Dramatic Arts who was actually a very interesting guy. He was actually a physisits who worked on the Manhattan Project, and as the story was told, he was one of the people who designed the detonation device when it hit a certain altitude. None of them knew what they were doing, and when he found out he had a breakdown. He became an amazing artist. He was an amazing individual and a very strong mentor to me.

CB: I see you have a really cool film coming out sometime this year “The Banker.” Great cast and interesting premise. Tell me more.

MH: It’s a really wonderful story in terms of civil rights. It’s a story about two African-American men who decided to get banks going that would operate fairly with the African-American community. They were smart enough in those days down South to realize that they needed a Caucasian man to do the front business, and they did that. They weren’t doing anything wrong, they were running a business. Of course the good ol‘ boys down South got wind of it and they destroyed what they had created. They were the forerunners and pioneers of a very wonderful change that is still happening. It was a great experience to work on the film to be a part of something that sheds light on the injustices in regards to civil rights.

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