Love Life Season 2 Star William Jackson Harper Talks 'Nerve-Racking' Sex Scenes: 'Never Fun'
The Emmy Award nominee, 41, had his work cut out for him in the anthology series as Marcus Watkins, a newly divorced man navigating the dating world for the first time in nearly a decade. With a new love interest in each episode, Harper opens up to PEOPLE about building chemistry and filming sex scenes with a different costar every week.
"It's always nerve-racking because those scenes are never fun," he says. "You know, there's always a lot of people there and you're naked and they're naked. And you feel really vulnerable and it's not like two people privately just getting into finally express the lust they have. It's a dance. It's a naked dance in front of a whole bunch of people with a stranger.
"And that's not great, but we had such great people in every episode that they were able to put me at ease when I needed to be, I would like to think that I was able to put them at ease when they needed to be. And we were always very respectful of each other and our boundaries," adds Harper.
And although he's received plenty of social media attention since going shirtless in his star-making role as Chidi Anagonye on The Good Place, Harper says he isn't quite prepared for the inevitable thirst that his new role will spark.
"I'm pretty shy and insecure when it comes to that kind of stuff. And I feel really vulnerable. And so it's nice when people have nice things to say, but I'm always very afraid that someone's going to say something really, really mean that's going to hurt my feelings and make me go into a closet and just wait it out," Harper muses. "So, I'm hoping that people get lost in the story, but if people have nice things to say about the way we look with our clothes off, that's fine. And I'm just going to lean into that. And hopefully, I don't read anything too disparaging at any point that makes me feel like a little kid who wants to hide in the locker room."
Harper was also fortunate enough to have some talented romantic leads, portrayed by Jessica Williams, Leslie Bibb, Ego Nwodim, Maya Kazan, Yasha Jackson and Aline Mayagoitia. But he admits there was "a little bit of whiplash" in building chemistry with so many alternating costars.
"But thankfully we always had just such consummate professionals and just incredibly talented actors taking on these parts and they all brought something very distinct and specific and nuanced and appealing that it was really easy to just lean into that new energy and to be like, 'Oh, there's the thing that is the spark of this relationship,'" he explains. "They all brought in something that was just undeniable."
The show also marks Harper's first time serving as an executive producer, alongside season 1 star Anna Kendrick, who reprises her role as Darby Carter in several episodes. For Harper, it was also "nice to be able to weigh in" in the writers' room, especially when it came to honestly showing the experiences of a Black man.
"I just thought of it as like, I'm just me going through a story and going through some experiences that are very foreign to me in a lot of ways," he says.
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"But there are certain ideas that we try to explore in the series that are very close to me, and I think that are very specific to a Black man's experience that don't have to do with dating, but just sort of what it is to navigate white spaces and to navigate great political moments that some people are just not able to... have the same kind of reaction to it that I am," Harper says. "Those moments felt very important to me to get those points of view out there."
See William Jackson Harper in season 2 of Love Life, premiering October 28 on HBO Max.
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