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Joel Harper-Jackson

19th March 2024

Interview & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent

Photography: Joseph Sinclair

Styling: James Yardley

Joel Harper-Jackson starred in the west-end show 'Cock' alongside Bridgerton star, Johnathan Bailey and now has stepped in as the lead role for another stage show 'Standing at the Sky's Edge'. Harper-Jackson chats to us about his new role, the challenges he took, and the dream role he would like to play. 

Hi Joel! Thank you for talking with us today. You starred in the west-end show “Cock” with Bridgerton star, Johnathan Bailey and took over the role from Rocketman star, Taron Egerton. Did you have enough time on the show?

Well, I certainly got a lot more time than I expected. I started working on the play as both Taron and Johnny’s understudy. I thought I’d maybe go on for a show or two during the 3/4 month period, but would spend the majority of the time in the dressing room. Little did I know I’d get a
call very early on in the run from the producers explaining Taron had to leave due to personal reasons and they’d like me to take over officially. So yes, I got a lot more time than I bargained for.

Did you face any challenges during your time on the show?

Stepping in to Tarons very big shoes was a challenge. He’s such a force as an actor and I’ve admired him for years. And of course another challenge would be dealing with the initial disappointment from audiences who wanted to see Taron. However, I was very aware how rare
this opportunity was, so I put my concerns aside, focused on the work and gave it 110%. I’m glad I did, as the response from the audiences were so much more than I could have ever hoped for.

You’re now starring as a lead in ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’. Can you tell us a little bit about the show and who you play?

The show was originally written as a love letter to Sheffield, charting the hopes and dreams of three generations over the course of six difficult decades, navigating universal themes of love, loss and survival. I play Harry, on track be the youngest steelwork foreman in the history of Sheffield. He’s a very complex man. Traditional yet forward thinking, head strong, political, stubborn, masculine, sensitive and charismatic. Harry has a tremendous character arc for an actor to play. He starts the show light, charming, full of enthusiasm and ready to take on the world. But as time goes on and Sheffield is hit with the affects of Thatcherism he becomes bitter, resentful and angry. He turns to alcohol and overtime becomes a shell of his former self. He’s wonderful but also heart breaking to play.

How different is this role from the others you played?

I’ve been quite fortunate so far in my career as every character I’ve played has been nothing like the last. I have consciously sought out characters who are so far removed from each other. From early on in my career I’ve been concerned about being pigeon holed as an actor. This came from other people in the industry putting limits on me and what was possible. I was also concerned whether being openly gay would affect me playing straight characters because when I was younger I never saw an openly gay actor playing the straight romantic lead on screen. Fortunately I do think times have changed slightly since then.

Are there any dream roles you would like to play?

Many. However, I think creatively I’d love to originate a role. To have a a role catered to your essence and specific skill set would be a real dream come true.

Lastly, if you had the opportunity to ReVamp anything in the world. What would it be and why?

I’m going to have to say the education system. I personally struggled with information overload during my teenage years and found it hard to retain anything. There was lots I didn’t understand and a reoccurring question of how it would benefit me. As teenagers we are
raging with hormones and many just don’t have the capacity. I craved life lessons, emotional understanding and knowledge of the earth. School felt regimented, lacked heart and didn’t nurture individuality. I think that’s probably why I was so drawn to art and performance. I have friends who work in education and from their experience it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. They feel forced to read from a script which they can’t deviate from. In my opinion teachers are the unsung hero’s and they go in to this field to better young people’s lives. But if they’re not given the resources, how can they make a change? It must be very frustrating.

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