Jeremy O. Harris, a Young Actor and Playwright, Asks Big Questions

Age 27

Hometown As a military brat, he moved from place to place before settling in Martinsville, Va.

Now Lives He “floats” between a five-bedroom house in the Highland Park section of Los Angeles, and a three-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights that he shares with the playwright Claire Kiechel.

Claim to Fame Mr. Harris is an actor and playwright most comfortable off script, starring in largely improvised scenes in a short film directed by James Franco for his “Rebel” art exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and “Weightless,” an upcoming movie from Terrence Malick. He also created “#Nightstrife,” a satirical docu-series on YouTube that tackles the job plight of black comedians in the entertainment industry.

Big Break The same week he dropped out of the Theater School at DePaul University in Chicago in 2009, Mr. Harris delivered a “really bad headshot my friend had taken on a cellphone” to Erica Daniels, then a casting director at the Steppenwolf Theater Company. The gambit worked. Mrs. Daniels recommended him for a role in “Jon,” a reworking of a George Saunders short story that later won a Jeff Award, Chicago’s top theater honor. “At a time I thought I couldn’t act,” he said. Seth Bockley, who directed the play, “told me I was the most centered actor he had ever seen,” Mr. Harris said.

Latest Project A reading of “Daddy,” a play Mr. Harris wrote about “a May to December romance between a young black artist and an older European art collector,” was recently performed at the Collapsable Hole, a performance space in the West Village. He is also collaborating on an update of “The Merchant of Venice,” to be staged on Governors Island this fall.

Next Thing “Daddy” also was the writing sample for his application to the Yale School of Drama graduate playwriting program, which he will attend this fall. “I don’t have the résumé I should have, but I’m asking big questions about theater and what its function is,” he said.

Yes to the Dress At 6-foot-5 and 160 pounds, Mr. Harris isn’t afraid of experimenting with his physical appearance. He once grew out his hair to create a singular long dreadlock. And he’ll wear the occasional dress in the name of fashion. “It never looks unmasculine on me for some reason,” he said. “In general, I tend to just go with what’s offered to me in the world.”

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