‘PLL’ may be over, but Ian Harding is just getting started. He talked EXCLUSIVELY with HL about his new movie, how his views on social media have changed, and more!
We’re in the midst of an era that’s all about social media, and People You May Know is here to show us all just how much of an impact social media can have on our lives. The movie stars Nick Thune, Halston Sage, Kaily Smith Westbrook, Ian Harding, Carly Chaikin, and Usher Raymond IV. People You May Know follows Jed (Nick), an introvert who has never taken an interest in social media — until now. When Jed crosses paths with social media guru (Halston), she utilizes his design skills and transforms his social media presence. The film will be available On Demand and digital HD on Nov. 28.
HollywoodLife.com got the chance to talk EXCLUSIVELY Ian about his role in the film. Ian is no stranger to social media. The role of Phillip in People You May Know was a refreshing change for Ian, who played Ezra Fitz on Pretty Little Liars, a show that sparked a social media phenomenon. Ian reveals what attracted him to the project, what he likes about Phillip, and his thoughts on social media’s influence on our relationships. Check out our Q&A below!
Tell us about your character and how he connects to everyone in People You May Know.
Ian Harding: I play Phillip, the husband to Franky, our fearless lead heroine in the film. I basically foil pretty much everybody in the film. I’m the guy who used to live in the city and had enough of the nonsense of paying out the nose for a life I didn’t want, for this need to go out, but then when I’m out be thinking of someplace else or Instagramming or this idea that I would need to prove to other people that I’m having a great time. I really like Phillip. I don’t think he’s right for the lead character, but I understand a lot of what he says, whether it’s getting out of the hubbub of the city and settling down and starting a family. That all sounds very nice. For Franky, Kaily’s character, it turns out maybe that’s not the case and perhaps she should have stuck it out a little longer. But in terms of social media, Phillip’s not on it, but I kind of admire that. He’s I think very much against it, and it feels like he would be the guy when the telephone first came out that became very adamant about only writing letters. He’s that kind of person. He’s a nice foil to everybody else, who are very caught up in the social media mindset.
What stood out about People You May Know that made you want to be a part of it?
Ian Harding: I think specifically Phillip’s character, because I wanted to play that guy. I am the person that my job for a couple of years was to make sure that we all tweet about it. That was an actual part of my job. This part I felt was so lovely, because this is a man who is so against it and had no need to be a part of it, so I wanted to try that out. On top of that, I like the storyline even though it wasn’t my storyline of Nick’s character going from somebody who didn’t need social media, didn’t feel like he had any, didn’t have any interest in it, and then becoming this person that he wasn’t. It’s sort of an age-old story of the Imposter syndrome and how that can play out in other stories. I mean especially now, it’s completely possible. You can buy followers. You can Photoshop. You can make yourself important, and it’s all a sham. I found that story to be really very exciting.
Do you think social media and our obsession with it has sort of impacted our ability to make meaningful connections with other people in relationships and friendships?
Ian Harding: Yeah, I think so. I think, again, there’s pluses and minuses to it. In the very opening 15 minutes of the film, Nick Thune, our lead actor, encounters a woman at the bar and they’re talking about how she can do a deep Goog, or a deep Google search, of a potential mate. She thinks this guy is a serial killer who is not on social media these days and trying to avoid the law. I think some of that is true. That is one of the upsides of social media, and the fact that everybody has a camera. There’s a certain amount of social justice that takes place, and in some way, we are more connected. With sites, you happen to click with somebody that fits certain points that you’ve written down on a survey. I think as robotic as that feels, as long as you’re able to then say, ‘Now I’m going to put this away. Now we’re going to do something together that doesn’t involve a phone or doesn’t involve social media.’ I think you have to put yourself on a media diet. I feel like that’s also with everything, or with every sort of major breakthrough of human invention. If you were on the phone all the time when the telephone first came out, that had a potential to interrupt family bonding and intimacy. But I think with social media or with phones and everything in general, it feels a little bit more insidious because it’s constantly with you.
When you were playing Phillip, someone who was off of social media completely, did you sort of think about changing the way that you use social media and the frequency that you use it?
Ian Harding: Yeah, actually while playing Phillip, I thought about stopping entirely or just keeping Twitter. I can just hop on my mentions, and if I go to the ones that are like, “Hi, how are you?” Then I’ll engage like, “Good, how are you?” I’ve gotten to a place with social media where I realize its importance to me and how it can actually add meaning to my life. It can be used for purely advertising and is a way of connecting to a fan base. I like the idea of being able to connect with fans and share who I am, and then if somebody wants me to do a paid post on Instagram I have no problem doing it. I think what social media has done for me is made me second guess what I am putting out there, because I do know people look at it, and if you’re going to be on it, you have to be responsible. You can’t just be willy-nilly about it. You have to really be conscious of what you post. I’ve done posts for some sort of health drink, and then I realize, wait a minute, this is pretty much a diuretic, and I’m selling this to teenage girls. I can’t do this, and I won’t do this. I’ve turned down stuff in that way. I feel like with any new human invention, we make it a symbol and have to decide: What does it mean to us? How is this symbol mirroring me? It makes me take into account what am I saying to the world. How do I come off to the world? In that way, it’s useful. In other ways, it’s just another way to step in your own sh*t.
What would you say the film’s overall view of social media is?
Ian Harding: I think it’s really taking stock of what you have and remembering everyone’s humanity. There’s a poaching field of celebrity culture of I need to have this photo with somebody, or I need to prove I was with this person. I think it’s about remembering how to be a human, ultimately. Maybe that’s really lofty and a writer and director would be like, “No, it’s just about Facebook, man.” But I think it’s about remembering how to be human.
HollywoodLifers, are you going to watch People You May Know? Let us know!