Leah Harvey: Learning the Power of My Voice
Hi, my name is Leah Harvey. I'm a gay, non-binary, biologically female, mixed race, Black-presenting, millennial, British, cockney, working class, actor-human...amongst other things.
That's a long list, isn't it?
I don't live my life shouting my "categories" from the rooftops, but they affect my day-to-day life in many ways. I don't have to tell you I'm gay, but you know I'm Black at first glance. I cannot ignore my Blackness and neither should you, particularly now, when we are living in a time of monumental change.
An effort is taking place that wasn't there before. There is a natural fear of change, though I think we all can agree something needs to shift. There have been many conversations, but little action. Even though it is scary, I implore industry leaders to be brave. Mistakes will be made! After all, we are trying to change centuries of systematic oppression, but this shouldn't stop the effort.
For the past two years, I have been working on Foundation, which streams on Apple TV+. It's been an enriching experience, and I've gained so many lessons from it. I have learned how to use my voice on top of how to save the galaxy! Our showrunner, David S. Goyer, brought in an Afro hair specialist after we struggled with the initial hire. I used my voice to tell them that it wasn't going to work. They acknowledged that they didn't have someone to look after textured hair and immediately took action. It wasn't taken personally, no pointing fingers necessary; just making the change was all that was needed to solve the problem. In my experience, this is allyship in its most efficient form, and it is something I would like to see adopted by industry leaders.
I want you to remember that Black people are not only Black (I often have to remind myself of this). Aside from melanin levels, we all face hardships, we all celebrate success, we all go through heartbreak and we all want to tell these stories. Until we see each other as equals, we won't treat each other as such, even with the best intentions. I can't tell you how to achieve this — believe me, I wish I knew. I'm just a British actor (amongst many other things) trying to navigate and thrive in this beautiful, ever changing, ever evolving industry.
The creative arts are a monolith of cultural change. We must stand together, listen to each other and lend ears to new, diverse voices like mine, rising up out of recent events.
To the Television Academy leaders and members, I leave you with this, and I hope it encourages you to remember the love for what we all do in this magical industry:
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but we have so much impact on how people see the world, and that is a wonderful gift which should be cherished.
Leah Harvey is an actor who portrays Salvor Hardin in the Apple TV+ series Foundation.
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The statements and viewpoints expressed in the article above are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions or viewpoints of the Television Academy, the Television Academy Foundation, or their members, officers, directors, employees, or sponsors.