BACKSTAGE – Fortune favors the brave, a cliché brought to life by Walter Davidson, who, alongside his brother Arthur and their friend Bill Harley, dreamed up one of the most enduring, quintessential American institutions when they founded the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company in the early 20th century. As depicted in the Discovery Channel miniseries “Harley and the Davidsons” (premiering Sept. 5), these Wisconsin trailblazers weren’t the richest or the first to realize that motorized bikes would revolutionize transportation, but they were the toughest and most resilient.
Michiel Huisman, who portrays Walter with a winning, cocky ruggedness, is himself a product of all the variables that comprise the self-made man: determination, talent, some luck, even a few bizarre coincidences. As he sits in the restaurant at the Chateau Marmont, the Dutch actor thinks about the forces that shaped Walter.
“Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 19th century was the last of the new frontier,” he says. “It was still a little bit of the Old West, you know? All these guys, but definitely Walter Davidson, were men’s men. He had a wish to carve out his own American Dream—he wants to break out with this thing that his little brother and his brother’s friend are tinkering with.”
For an actor who’s played everyone from Daario Naharis in “Game of Thrones” to the street musician Sonny in “Treme” to Blake Lively’s love interest in “The Age of Adaline,” Huisman in person is several shades funnier and looser than his brooding, hunky characters. “I think Walter is a much more physical guy [than I am],” he admits. “You would have to go really crazy on me before I throw a punch. I’ve never done that in my life. I think a part of me wishes that I was more like that.”