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Actor Keith Harris Proves You Can Go Home Again

Fans of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” know him as Dr. Harlan Carson, but long before that R. Keith Harris was making a name for himself as an actor in films like “Big Fish” and “A Walk in the Woods.” Raised in Reidsville, North Carolina, Harris tried his hand at living in Los Angeles, but came back home with $40 in his pocket and very little to show for his five year investment. For most that would have been the end of the Hollywood dream. But for Harris, his acting opportunities have continued to expand.The North Carolina native joins host Frank Stasio to talk about growing up in Reidsville, the pressures of being a principal's son, and having no regrets about getting his master of fine art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Harris also delves into why the film business is North Carolina has faded and how the new film incentives system assures it will be a long time before it returns. A current resident of Greensboro, Harris just gave birth to his new project “Shifting Gears,” a film he wrote and stars in. 


On joining a popular television series like “The Walking Dead”:

It is super exciting and super scary all at the same time. Because these guys, by the time I got there I came in at the end of season six, obviously they had been doing it for six years already and they were tight. But I came away from the set the very first day, even coming away from my costume fitting, going it felt like a family environment.

photo of R. Keith Harris
Credit Keith Harris
Actor R. Keith Harris plays Dr. Harlan Carson on the hit series "The Walking Dead." He recently wrote, produced and starred in his first feature film "Shifting Gears."

On the secrecy of working on “The Walking Dead”:

I’m a script analysis guy. I love taking the script and kinda pulling it apart and seeing where everything fits. But for “The Walking Dead,” I got my pages. Period. I didn’t get anybody else’s pages. I didn’t get the whole script. I got my pages alone.

On how he chose acting as his career:

I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was nine years old and it never really changed. We had one of those mid-1960s TVs, black and white. It was furniture … I was watching this movie – I think it was one of those Sundays – I don’t remember the movie or who the actress was. But it was a close up on her and she had this mix of, gosh, just distress and like betrayal and love and longing. And like this big mix of emotions come out. And I just remember looking at that and going: I wanna do that.

On lessons from working in Hollywood:

It’s show business. And business is the big word. That’s actually when I started writing, I moved out there and realized that for lack of a better example, actors have to fit into someone else’s vision. And if they don’t, sorry better luck next time. So I realized I had stories that I wanted to tell and I realized that hey as part of the business you can’t make a movie without a script. So I was just trying to fill in the gaps.

Trailer for "Shifting Gears"

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.