Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison Jr. Talk Coming-of-Age with “Lizzie McGuire” and Lisa Kudrow

Published November 15, 2019

Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison Jr. in Waves. Photos courtesy A24.

Waves packs an emotional wallop so enduring it just about blows the entire coming-of-age canon out of the water (sorry, John Hughes, My Girl, et al.), and at its center are the equally exemplary Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell. The pair play siblings: Harrison Jr. as Tyler, the wrestling superstar and boyfriend to Alexis (Euphoria‘s Alexa Demie), and Russell as Emily, his introverted, empathetic younger sister, who strikes up a tepid yet tender romance with A24 boyfriend Lucas Hedges. As they teeter on the cusp of adulthood, both siblings savor the sensation of their first loves, while simultaneously reckoning with the tragedies that fall around them. In real life, the pair—who happen to be born five days apart—giddily bounce off one another, swapping stories in such a manner so as to suggest a friendship that tallies decades. With Waves crashing into theaters this weekend, Interview caught up with the duo to learn just how they got to know each other, what astrological signs they’d assign to their characters, and their favorite TV shows (there are many).

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MARK BURGER: How did you two get to know each other?

TAYLOR RUSSELL: We only had one dinner that we all got together for the night before the first day of shooting, which was the diner scene. It was good, but we didn’t have that much time.

KELVIN HARRISON JR.: It felt like I knew you before I even met you. We have a mutual friend; I would hear about her through him, and she’d probably hear about me through him. So then we felt like we knew each other.

RUSSELL: We got straight to it. It wasn’t any kind of niceties or exchanging small talk. It was just straight into how we felt about certain things, and being kind of brutally honest about it.

HARRISON JR.: We were born five days apart.

RUSSELL: I feel like I’ve known Kelvin for a very long time.

HARRISON JR.: That’s that Cancer in you.

RUSSELL: That’s that Cancer in you, honey. We have the same chart. What are you going to use against me that you can’t use against yourself?

BURGER: You have the same birth chart?

HARRISON JR.: Almost.

RUSSELL: Our moon signs are different, but our rising and sun signs are just inverted. He’s a sun Leo and ascending Cancer. I’m a sun Cancer, ascending Leo.

BURGER: What do you think your character’s signs are?

RUSSELL: I feel like mine is probably a Cancer or a Pisces.

HARRISON JR.: There’s a Gemini on his chart somewhere.

RUSSELL: Maybe a Taurus. Maybe he’s a cusp.

BURGER: Have you ever been to a psychic?

RUSSELL: I’ve been to an astrologer, I’ve been to mediums, I’ve been to a body healer. I’m very interested in all that sort of stuff. But they always say the same sort of thing. If you can read everything about me, what is left up to fate? Is destiny real? All these questions came to me when I went.

BURGER: Would you ever go to a psychic, Kelvin?

HARRISON JR.: No. I don’t need to go. I also feel like I would argue.

RUSSELL: That’s your Leo side. That’s your prideful side. [Laughs.]

MARK BURGER: Do you have a favorite coming-of-age movie?

TAYLOR RUSSELL: Oh, I do. Do you know yours?

HARRISON JR.: Perks of Being a Wallflower. Is that coming-of-age, though?

RUSSELL: When did you watch that?

HARRISON JR.: When I was an adult. I didn’t watch movies when I was a kid. I watched, like, Disney Channel.

RUSSELL: Okay, like That’s So Raven and Cory in the House and Even Stevens.

HARRISON JR.: Lizzie McGuire was definitely coming-of-age.

RUSSELL: Lizzie McGuire was the O.G. coming-of-age.

HARRISON JR.: What’s your favorite coming-of-age movie?

RUSSELL: Thirteen, with Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood.

HARRISON JR.: Have you seen The Thirteenth Year? The Disney Channel movie about the merman?

RUSSELL: [Laughs.] No.

HARRISON JR.: That’s a good one.

RUSSELL: That’s like Aquamarine.

HARRISON JR.: I don’t know what Aquamarine is.

RUSSELL: Well, I don’t know The Thirteenth Year.

RUSSELL: Maybe it’s different in New Orleans.

HARRISON JR.: Maybe it was just a different in my home. We weren’t allowed to watch a lot of movies. Anything that had curse words in it, we weren’t allowed to watch. Also anything with weird themes. Anything that was going to challenge the mind.

BURGER: What was the first movie you saw that you knew you shouldn’t be watching?

HARRISON JR.: I saw my parents watching Kill Bill once. It was scandalous. I still haven’t seen the whole thing. Anything I wasn’t supposed to watch as a kid, I still haven’t watched.

RUSSELL: I have the same thing actually.

HARRISON JR.: It makes me nervous. Maybe Training Day was the first one where I watched the whole thing. It’s violent. Great acting, though.

RUSSELL: I wasn’t allowed to watch Sailor Moon.

HARRISON JR.: Harry Potter was another one that I wasn’t allowed to watch because of the wizard. Magic was just not Christian.

RUSSELL: Magic is so important.

HARRISON JR.: It is. It’s probably why I loved Charmed. I was watching it this morning. It’s my favorite show. I’ve seen every episode at least three times.

BURGER: What movies or TV shows have you guys been watching recently?

HARRISON JR.: I just finished The Handmaid’s Tale.

BURGER: What did you think?

HARRISON JR.: I enjoy it. It scares me. I see women in red coats in my dreams now. 

RUSSELL: I’m bingeing The Staircase right now. I’m obsessed with crime docu-series, like every young millennial. 

HARRISON JR.: That’s what the millennials are doing? I’m watching 90 Day Fiancée.

RUSSELL: Well, you’re special.

HARRISON JR.: I finished The Handmaid’s Tale, like, a week ago, and I was like, “Praise be.” I needed to cleanse. I needed to find love and hope. And 90 Day Fiancé definitely checks those boxes. If it works out for them.

RUSSELL: Does it work out for them?

HARRISON JR.: Sometimes it doesn’t.

RUSSELL: And it’s bad?

HARRISON JR.: It’s really bad right now.

RUSSELL: Three months? That’s too much pressure.

BURGER: Would you ever be on a reality show?

RUSSELL: Hell no.

HARRISON JR.: I would definitely do a reality show.

BURGER: Which one would you want to do?

HARRISON JR.: The Real World. I would do Love Island, easy, send me to the U.K. I would do The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Flavor of Love.

RUSSELL: I would watch you. I think you’d be really good on there.

HARRISON JR.: “A Shot at Love With Kelvin”? [Laughs.] I would do a cameo on The Real Housewives. I have no shame in the reality show game.

RUSSELL: I loved The Real World. For a moment, and I was into Teen Mom. But it was a short lived affair because it just got too real.

HARRISON JR.: Would you really do a reality show with me, like Tia and Tamara?

RUSSELL: Maybe. If we came up with a really interesting concept—

HARRISON JR.: Like The Hills? I love The Hills.

RUSSELL: Sure. I’m interested in more of a genre-reality TV show. Like Mulholland Drive meets a dating show, perhaps? It would have to be something completely crazy and new and satirical.

HARRISON JR.: I would like to do a TV show about a reality show. Like The Comeback, have you seen that? With Lisa Kudrow?

RUSSELL: Oh, Lisa Kudrow. Phoebe’s the best.

HARRISON JR.: I’ve never seen Friends.

RUSSELL: I just finished finished watching it last month. I hadn’t seen it, ever. In August and September, I binged the entire thing. I would just put it on in the background.

HARRISON JR.: I did that for The Office.

RUSSELL: There’s so many options now. I find it hard to choose.

HARRISON JR.: You always go with a Disney movie, like Hercules.

BURGER: Is that your favorite Disney movie?

HARRISON JR.: It’s Sleeping Beauty. Hercules is a good second.

RUSSELL: What about a reality show: Sleeping Beauty x Mulholland Drive x a dating show x Teen Mom