Take a peek at Laura Harrier’s Instagram feed and you’ll see a globe-trotting 27-year-old whose passions are many — from statements about social injustices (read: the Philando Castile acquittal) to links about the former model’s penchant for fashion to acting.
But it’s the latter that has the Evanston native in the spotlight at the moment. Harrier is playing Liz Allan in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” opening Friday. This version of the Marvel Comics “webby” character takes us back to school. Harrier’s character is the academic decathlon captain who is also the Molly Ringwald of the high-school centered production, she says.
The Evanston Township High School alumna tapped into her inner student for the role, but acting stints in smaller productions such as Steve McQueen’s HBO project “Codes of Conduct” and Carrie Brownstein’s short “The Realest Real” put Harrier on the path of the friendly neighborhood superhero. She’s done her homework, beginning with the first “Spidey” comic in 1962. Couple that with director Jon Watts’ vision for the film being somewhat John Hughes-esque, and you have Harrier pulling from her childhood environment to play Peter Parker’s love interest (the first one of color).
“What’s cool about this movie and Peter and Liz’s relationship is it’s an interracial relationship, but it’s not talked about. It’s not a big deal and shouldn’t be made into a big deal,” Harrier said during an interview last month at NoMi restaurant. “It’s not this romance where they needed arm candy for the superhero. That really struck me as something that we don’t really see enough of — strong female characters in these types of movies. I’m really proud to be playing Liz, playing someone little girls can look at and identify with and understand that she is intelligent and beautiful and driven — all of these things and you can be all that and a feminist. It’s not one or the other. You can be a fully actualized, well-rounded human. I don’t think we see enough of that in film, and I hope that comes across in our portrayal of Liz.”
We caught up with Harrier, a Cubs fan, on her upward trajectory to talk about her own heroes, her hometown and other things. The following is an edited transcript.
Q: Speaking of John Hughes films, which one is your favorite?
A: “Breakfast Club” seems like such a basic answer, but it’s just so good. It’s so classic. I feel like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is very much in that same vein. We’re all one of those characters. Liz is the Molly Ringwald for sure. Me, myself? I was kind of the Molly Ringwald in high school, too. But there’s only two options for women in that.
Q: Who are your heroes?
A: Definitely my parents. I come from a family of strong women, who have been positive role models for me. Viola Davis is incredible — she’s kind of the biggest career-wise inspiration for me. Brilliant actor, so intelligent, so strong. The path that she’s made is incredible. Meryl Streep, Robin Wright. Steve McQueen (the director) is someone I’ve looked up to for so long. I think he has a strong, incredible voice and has done a lot for our community and is an important person in the world. He’s someone I look up to a lot.
Q: You’re in a movie with stars like Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr. Do you get giddy around big names?
A: Yeah, for sure … I feel that. I’m a normal girl from Evanston, I don’t know how I’m in this situation with these people. I brushed paths with Julianne Moore, another actress that I love. I didn’t even talk to her, but I was freaking out. I was around my agent, who said, “You need to chill.” I really freaked out about her. I think I’m pretty good at acting like I’m cool, but on the inside, I’m really freaking out. Sitting on set doing a scene with Michael Keaton was nerve-wracking, and it going well was really incredible and eye-opening.
Q: Who’s your favorite feminist?
A: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I think she’s so smart and cool. Also Zadie Smith. I really connect to strong feminist writers that make their ideas accessible for the rest of the world. My mom is also my favorite feminist. She was one before it was cool to be one.
Q: Most prominent genre on your Spotify?
A: You know how they do your “daily mix”? My four are so across the board, they’re all over. I did listen, like every Chicagoan, to Chance’s album “Coloring Book” on repeat. I listen to a lot of Solange. I love old-school as well.
Q: Solange or Beyonce?
A: I love both of them so much, I couldn’t answer that question. They are like for different sides of myself, depending on how I feel. I did see Beyonce last summer and bawled through the whole thing. It was really embarrassing, actually.
Q: What’s your dream gig?
A: I would love to work with Steve again and Paul Thomas Anderson. Those are the big ones.
Q: When you come home, where are your must-stops?
A: It depends on how much time I have. If I can, my favorite is to get my dad to take me to Harold’s Chicken. It’s always a good trip. When he takes me there, I’m super happy. If I’m in Evanston, I have to get to Mustard’s Last Stand and Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe — those were childhood favorites. If you do them back-to-back, you’ll feel like you’re going to die, but it’s also amazing at the same time.
Q: What social issue angers you the most?
A: Racism, the killing of innocent black men and women. So does Trump, but that’s a different interview.
Q: How would you classify your style?
A: ’90s minimalism meets French girl in the ’60s plus TLC. I miss (Lisa) Left-Eye (Lopes).
Q: Last great read?
A: I just finished “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara, which is a really an incredible book — really sad, difficult to get through, but amazing.
Q: Do you prefer Lolla or Pitchfork?
Q: What’s your hidden talent?
A: It’s kind of gross. I can make this weird farting noise with my shoulder. I used to do it to bug my brother all the time. I can also suck my lip into my nose.