Chasten Harmon: “Bessie” on “Damnation”

Meet Chasten Harmon, the actress bringing the unstoppable Bessie to life.
I have the honor of interviewing someone who I believe is fast becoming a fan favorite of the new hit series Damnation, Bessie, played by Chasten Harmon.  Chasten, we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.

How did you hear about this role?
I heard about the role through my representation.  They sent me the breakdown and the sides.  I remember it being a very busy week for auditions and I was definitely overwhelmed going through all the material that was coming through my inbox, but I remember, specifically, getting a call from my manager saying that they were still looking for this character if I wanted to submit a tape quickly.  It was pretty last minute actually lol.  I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare so it was very close to a cold read. It wasn’t until after that I really got a chance to dig in and relate to the material.  That’s when I realized what a gem had fallen into my path and I fell in love with Bessie and the world of DAMNATION.
What made you want to go after it?
I love period pieces and historical fiction.  Books, movies, TV doesn’t matter.  It’s the genre at the top of my list for dream projects.  There are so many different types of projects out there that you can easily get seduced into working on things that don’t necessarily make your inner child giddy.  When you start with getting to tell the story of our Damned – NATION (if you will) and layer in getting to be a vessel and a voice for such a powerful and complex woman…. what more could my inner child wish for!? I really can’t think of anything!
Where you able to read the whole season before you signed up for the show? 
Just the 1st episode… but it was more than enough to get me hooked.
Did the idea of playing a hooker scare you at all?  Does anything else about her scare you?
Well… it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.  One has to stop and ask the question, is this relevant? Is it progressive? How is this contributing to the conversations that are happening today?  It was through the writing and the collaboration with our creatives that it quickly became clear that the last thing that Bessie was, was a prostitute.  Prostitution was just a tool or a means for her to get ahead in a world where the male perspective, i.e. the underestimation and objectification of women, dominated. It influences the heart of her story but it is not the heart of her. When I focus on her heart… it’s just a story, a woman’s voice dying to be heard.  The exposure and expression that requires is probably the scariest part.  Accessing those deep levels of hopes and fears.
What do you like the most about Bessie?
I like how strategic and resourceful she is.  It’s so much fun to get to embody those qualities.  I also love how she is a secret dreamer.  She is a woman who will never give up on life and living and that is, I believe, one of the most admirable qualities one can posses.
Are you like Bessie at all?
Well I can drive and I can read so check and check lol.  Just kidding!
What’s surprised you the most about Bessie as you dug deeper into her past and learned more about her?
Although she wears much armor and “believes” that her only duty is to herself.  She bleeds compassion and connection to the human experience. Which, to answer your question above, is a lot like me I would say.
Why do you think fans are so drawn to her?
Hahaha I have no idea.  Maybe cause she doesn’t pull any punches?!
What should fans look out for coming up?
All I will say…. Is that along with the two brother’s Bessie is definitely struggling with her past, present, and future identity as well.
What do you like most about working on Damnation?
Working on DAMNATION!
What’s been your favorite thing to film?
I love filming those beautiful exterior shots in Calgary when the sunset is spectacular!
What took you out of your comfort zone the most?
I think finding Bessie in the brothel, in her room, in her bed was much easier than finding her dressed and out and about around town.  I think we truly experienced that journey together. What it was like to be seen in public by people whom did not look like me and either looked through me or down at me.
How is this role different than roles in your past?
Oh boy…. You name it!
Is there anything you want to say to the fans?
I just want to say thank you for watching and for your love and support.  Everyone involved put their hearts into this project and it’s a privilege to share it with yours.
Tell me one thing about yourself that would surprise most people.
I love bubble gum ice cream! 😉
What do you think about the women of Damnation? Why are so many drawn to them?
-Because they are real! Most women are portrayed from a very specific perspective… but our writing team works hard to make sure women are accurately portrayed as they have ALWAYS been, which is resilient and resourceful.
Do you think the women are actually running the revolution? It seems like they actually manipulate everything that goes on in the town.
-I think everyone plays their part… The women have honed different skills because they’ve had to be creative in order to compete or, at the least, survive in this world. They use those skills to adeptly pursue their objectives and quite simply get less recognition for it.
What makes Creely and Bessie’s relationship different?
They both think with their heads first haha! Which is what makes us want, so much, for them to just throw reason away and go for it!
Why do you think Creely respects Bessie so much, especially given her profession?
It’s clear from the start that Bessie can hold her own.  She’s just as quick as he is .  I think it’s a mutual respect through personal recognition. Furthermore, we find out in Episode 4 that Creeley’s mother was a prostitute.  He was raised in a brothel.  I’m sure he’s familiar with the hellish life it can be and sympathizes with her plight.
What makes Bessie tick?
Having no control. So… she’s ticking a lot of the time!
Do you think Creely’s trying to protect Bessie by pulling away from her after the Black Legion kidnapped him?
Of course!  I think he is trying to stay focused for everyone’s sake in an already very complex world and situation.
Is Bessie’s relationship with her father a big factor in how she is?
I think everyone’s relationship with their parents is a big factor in how they are.  I believe it to be true in life and I believe it is also a theme in our show.  You’ll find that every character is molded and their actions influenced by their family experiences and relationships.  Just look at the brothers and their father and the present hell their past hell has created.
Do you know anything about Bessie’s backstory? Will we find out how Bessie wound up working for Della?
Haha I would hope so!!!!!! Otherwise I’m not doing my job very well hehe.  As always in a story… more will be revealed in time.
What’s your favorite part of Bessie’s story line season one?
I think the arrival of Creeley presents Bessie and Sheriff with an opportunity to explore some kind of relationship however good or bad.  Exploring and navigating what its like to get to know your father regardless of the circumstances is a very interesting and fun container to work in as an actor.
What would Bessie and Creely’s ship name be?
What’s your favorite thing about Bessie?
She always has hope.