Harris’ only concern is that he may end up being typecast
HOLLYWOOD–When Dylan Harris moved to Hollywood two years ago, he knew he was taking a tremendous risk. The 26 year old native of Sydney, Australia, has been a working actor for nearly a decade, appearing in guest roles in a number of television crime procedurals and several low-budget horror films. But his dream has always been to make it big in America.
“In the past I’ve mostly been cast as murder victims,” Harris says, “I’ve never had a speaking role. Or even one that allows me to move my body in any way. This is a tough business to break into, especially if you don’t have a head.”
Harris lost his head in a freak kiting accident as a child, a tragedy that also left his older brother paralyzed from the neck down. Initially, Harris found the challenges that accompany life without a head to be almost too much to bear.
“After the accident, we had to take Dylan out of school,” says Kate Harris, Dylan’s mother, “The other children were frightened by him. And, he just couldn’t pick up on the subjects, since he no longer had a brain. He would always say, ‘I just don’t have a head for algebra’. Which is funny, because it’s true.”
Harris soon found solace in acting, which he stumbled into as a young teenager.
“When I say stumbled into, I mean that literally,” Harris explains, “Not having eyes, I sort of just fumble around, generally. One day I stumbled into the director of the local theater group. He cast me immediately as a dead body in the revival of Mary Poppins. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
After Harris made his move to America, he began to question his future as an actor. He went to dozens of auditions without landing a role. He says he was on the verge of returning to Australia after he lost his job waiting tables at TGiFridays, when his agent sent him a script for a new series in development.
“It was for a new show on Fox called Sleepy Hollow,” Harris says, “I was immediately blown away. It was perfect for me.”
Ironically, the show’s producers initially asked Harris to read for the role of Ichabod Crane.
“We loved Dylan for that role,” says series creator, Alex Kurtzman, “He has this gravity about him, and a tremendous sense of humor, which, I would think, you would need to have if you don’t have a head.”
But Kurtzman says he and the other producers quickly realized there would be a problem when the scene they asked Harris to read ended with a passionate kiss between he and actress Katia Winter.
“He couldn’t kiss her,” Kurtzman says, “Because he doesn’t have a head, you see? How’s he gonna kiss her without a head? The air went out of the room. We knew it wasn’t gonna work. Then Len Wiseman says, ‘What about this other role?’”
That other role was the character of Crane’s nemesis, The Headless Horseman. Harris was quickly signed on in the role, and become the series’ breakout star. He still hasn’t been given any lines, mainly due to the disconcerting way his vocal cords flutter upward when he talks, but his body language has commanded viewers’ attention.
“I’m definitely living out my dreams,” Harris says, “And it’s awesome to be an example to other people out there who’ve lost their heads in freak accidents.”