Ten Meets Jeremy O.Harris, Who Wears Gucci For The Third Cover Of 10 Men Issue 56

The first thing you notice about Jeremy O. Harris is his laugh. The young playwright has the sort of devilish chuckle that would land you in trouble while gossiping with your best mate at the back of the classroom. Cheekily mischievous, Harris is warm and charming as we chat over Zoom. “I’m right in the middle of my morning routine,” he says through a blank screen, an anime protagonist in place of where his face should be.

It’s the day after the photoshoot for the images accompanying this story, where Harris wore a slew of playful, 1970s-inspired suits from the Gucci Ha Ha Ha collection; a capsule inspired by the friendship shared between the house’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, and Harry Styles.

“These clothes all fit me perfectly. I think it’s easy because Harry and I are friends and we have very similar aesthetics,” he says, putting himself forward to be Michele’s next collaborator. “When Ali reads this, he will see I’m ready to get in. I’m ready to do, you know, the JOH X AM collab. JOHAM might be what it’s called, or JAM maybe? Maybe we call it just JAM.”

Harris, 33, is part of a wealth of talent who make up Gucci’s global creative cohort, who aren’t just famous faces for the frow at the brand’s catwalk shows, but collaborators too. Like GucciFest in 2020, for instance – a mini-film festival, which saw Gucci’s Ouverture of Something that Never Ended collection unveiled via a series of shorts. The fourth installment to the seven- part story saw the protagonist, Silvia, audition at Sasha Waltz and Guests dance company, with Harris joining her on screen to perform a joyous rendition of Ravel’s “Bolero”.

“[Gucci] is more about personal creativity than it is about a brand impressing upon you. I am a creative person and I think that when I’m wearing Gucci, I feel free to be my full self and not like I’m wearing some costume that articulates that I’m some outside of the person I’ve been my whole life,” says Harris.

He admires Michele’s ability to rummage through Gucci’s archive like you would your grandmother’s attic. It’s an ethos he’s adopted when concocting his uniform. He describes his day-to-day look as “classic writer”, and a quick scroll through his Instagram – among cameos from the likes of Madonna and Julia Fox – you’ll spot Harris in studious suiting, boyish shorts and Gucci loafers (lots of them).

“I think Carrie Bradshaw had this sense of effortless abundance, you know? Because I like to wear outfits that point back to my brain,” he says. “I wear a lot, but like a specific amount of a lot.” He likes to be armoured in clothing that tells the everyday passerby what sort of work he makes: “Something that’s Seventies and feels overwhelming but beautiful at the same time.”

Before our conversation, Harris had recently returned from a trip to Tokyo, where he’d brought his acclaimed play “Daddy”: A Melodrama to Japan for the first time. Without sounding clichéd, being lost in translation in a city for three weeks forced him into a type of quiet that brought a softness to his pen. “I wrote so much there, it’s really crazy! It was an exciting type of writing that felt so unlike the writing I was doing before I left,” he says. “I’m always going to be confrontational because I’m a Gemini and there’s no way to get around it. But what does it look like to be confrontational and meditative?”

Prior, Harris had brought the play to London’s Almeida Theatre this past March for a month. That was a triumph in itself, as the production had to be postponed on the eve of the pandemic in March 2020, leaving Harris stranded in a flat in Finsbury Park through the first lockdown.

“Doing the play again was an affirmation of so many different aspects of my creative life,” he says. “Daddy”, which was written in 2016, debuted at the Pershing Square Signature Center in New York in a revised version in 2019, when Harris was a third-year student at the Yale School of Drama. It was only his second production as a post-grad student. The first, Slave Play – a shocking dark comedy which involves a trio of interracial couples who turn to roleplaying America’s slave-trading past to spice up their sex lives – earned the wordsmith 12 Tony nominations and only exited Broadway a week before “Daddy” began.

“One of the things that was quite difficult about doing the play in America for the very first time was that I was 28 years old and so was my director [Danya Taymor]. I was just coming out of doing my first Broadway play and “Daddy” is the first play I ever wrote, but it was coming out second so I had all of these separate things going on in my head.”

An abbreviated rehearsal time of just short of four weeks meant Harris couldn’t render the show in a way “that helped us stick the landing immediately” and the play was met with lukewarm reviews.

“Daddy” follows the relationship between a white billionaire art collector, and a fledgling Black artist, exposing a tale of exploitation that emerges within the couple. An early draft of the play got Harris into Yale. It also impressed A24 enough to commission him as a co-writer on Zola – the 2015 viral Twitter thread-turned-road trip movie drama involving strippers and shotguns – and has seen the writer net an ongoing gig at HBO, where he has worked as co- producer and advisor on the Gen-Z smash Euphoria.

“The only pressure I had on myself with “Daddy” in London was to prove New York critics wrong. There was one review in particular that was incredibly unkind [in the New York Times]. I was constantly thinking about the fact that this man and all of his years decided to call the play, which a 25-year-old wrote, ‘turgid’ in its first paragraph,” says Harris. “I felt this juvenile [need] to prove him wrong because, first of all, turgid is a horrible word.”

And that he did. By the time “Daddy” made it to London, it was a complete sell-out, lauded as “a bold, audacious jolt,” by the Evening Standard and “a play wholly worth watching,” according to the Guardian.

“With all the time that Covid gave us, by the time we put it up in London we really knew what this play was and about these impulses I had as a young playwright,” he adds. “To have it be so well received across the board is something I can’t truly articulate how grateful I am for.”

I ask Harris how he’s able to have so many hats on at once, be it working on suburban teen dramas for major television networks, penning Broadway plays or even starring in Netflix’s Emily in Paris. “I think that because I’ve been waiting for so long for the opportunity to do them, you know? My time growing up in Martinsville [Virginia] gave me the time to just focus on making because I couldn’t make freely before I was in LA.” Harris grew up as a churchgoer and once thought he could channel his passion for performing into becoming a preacher. After dropping out of a poetry degree at DePaul University, he moved to LA to pursue a career in acting, where he worked three jobs to keep a roof over his head.

“Being in a place where my only job is to write meant that all these stories I’d had and hidden in the back of my head were finally able to fall out, which was amazing.”

Not only is Harris brilliantly and profoundly gifted in a myriad of fields, he is also a beacon for young writers who may feel discouraged or think that the gift of the pen is a dying artform. “I feel so deeply for a lot of artists coming up now in a way that I think I would have felt deeply for people coming up in the 1920s or the 1940s when there were literally two world wars happening. It’s really difficult to make [work] generously when it feels like there could be other avenues to put your energy into, but you are burdened by the fact that you are only good at one thing.”

He continues: “But I think the beautiful thing is constantly remembering that, as unique as our moment is, we’ve also seen echoes of these things happen before. Yes, it feels as though every judge in America that Trump appointed is actively trying to stop the sort of freedoms I feel when I’m putting on clothes every morning. They’re attacking women’s bodies; they’re attacking the bodies of Black and brown people. They’re literally saying you can’t say gay in schools. But like James Baldwin’s writing during the civil rights movement, there are moments in history that you can look towards to find inspiration and remember that all is not lost.”

Issue 56 of 10 Men – PEACE, COURAGE, FREEDOM – is on newsstands September 16. Pre-order your copy here.



Photographer MYLES LOFTIN
Hair URSULA STEPHEN at A-Frame Agency
Photographer’s assistant NIK ANTONIO
Fashion assistant CHERNISSE BUTCHER

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