YAHOO – Discovery’s new six-hour miniseries Harley and the Davidsons, premiering Sept. 5, tells the story of how brothers Walter and Harley Davidson and their friend Bill Harley gave birth to the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the early 1900s. It’s a tale of high risk, financial and physical, and intense passion, for both engineering and personal freedom. Game of Thrones‘ Michiel Huisman was drawn to the role of Walter for one simple reason: “Because he represents, I think, the heart, the attitude, the soul of what Harley-Davidson became,” he says. “He’s a little bit of a rebel, a little bit of an outsider, a tiny bit anti-establishment. He projects that onto what he wants a bicycle with an engine to become. He’s a man’s man with both feet in Wisconsin clay. In my mind, he’s an icon. I was honored to be allowed to portray a character like that.”
Huisman spoke to Yahoo TV about filming the miniseries, which airs over three consecutive nights.
Without spoiling too much, Night 1 ends with a Motordrome race that shows just how dangerous this dream is. I didn’t know the history and found myself tempted to Google “Walter Davidson,” to make sure we wouldn’t lose Walter before the end of the miniseries. Were you nervous about his fate, knowing he is the one who rides the bikes?
Michiel Huisman: Well, no, because very early on I started doing some research and I knew he lasted longer than that. That much I knew. It’s also funny how working on the miniseries is very different from working on a longer series like Game of Thrones, for example, where we don’t really know what’s going to happen beyond the episode that we get to read. In general, with a miniseries, everything is read before we start shooting. So you know the arc; you know where it starts, you know where it will end. It’s a lot of fun, too, because it allows you to think more about the storyline and the arc of your character.
A lot of actors will lie about certain skills to get roles. Did you have to prove to producers that you could ride before they believed you?
No, no. Well, sort of. I made sure that in the casting process I told everybody who I thought should know that I was able to ride any kind of motorcycle. Once I got the part, they were very keen on getting me out on location as soon as possible to start riding on their replicas. We rebuilt [close to 90] early Harley-Davidsons, because either the originals don’t exist anymore or they’re behind glass in the Harley museum in Milwaukee. They ride very differently from modern bikes, obviously. Especially in the beginning, they’re more like bicycles with an engine. Once we get into Episodes 2 and 3 — because the three episodes span a period of 30 years — they slowly become more what we recognize as Harleys. But those bikes still are the opposite of what you’re used to on a modern bike. It was really useful to have some time before we started shooting, because I think my character was really a natural when it came to riding those motorcycles. I wanted to be able to make it look like I am, too.