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.
GQ – On set with Discovery’s star-studded new miniseries.
At the best of times, visiting a film set can feel like Take-Your-Journalist-To-Work Day—a bunch of friendly, overworked Hollywood professionals taking breaks from doing their actual work so they can explain it to a small group of interlopers. But there’s also something genuinely magical about walking onto a certain kind of set: a well-oiled and collaborative machine designed solely to create an illusion. You step off a plane, hop into a van, and emerge in the past—in this particular case, a defunct warehouse in Bucharest, Romania that has been painstakingly reworked to resemble a factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, circa the turn of the 19th century. I’m here, for a few days, to take a deep dive into the Discovery miniseries Harley & the Davidsons, a dramatized version of the origin of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company.
Your first question might be the same as mine: Why did they go all the way to Bucharest when the United States has a perfectly good Wisconsin just waiting to be used? The answer—like pretty much everything else about a film shoot—is both complicated and variable depending on the person you ask. On the surface, Bucharest and Milwaukee could hardly have less in common. The Communist takeover of the Romanian government in 1947—and the subsequent Communist overthrow in 1989—left Bucharest in a cultural and architectural deep-freeze. In the city center, you might pass a casino or a Gucci store and suddenly come across a dilapidated building covered by a massive tarp designed to resemble the facade of a building—a literal wallpapering over a problem until a more permanent solution can be devised.
ET – Michiel Huisman has a plan.
It’s true that the Dutchman may be recognized most for his Game of Thrones character Daario Naharis, Daenerys Targaryen’s handsome and loyal advisor. But starting Monday, Huisman enters another fantastical world in Discovery Channel’s latest scripted miniseries, Harley and the Davidsons, about a culture he has a deep affinity for: motorcycles.
An avid bike rider, Huisman had himself convinced that he would “never, ever, ever get into a car,” he told ET during an August sit-down in Beverly Hills, California. That was before he and his wife, actress Tara Elders, had their daughter, Hazel, in 2008. “All of a sudden, I realized that I had responsibilities, and maybe it was smarter to get a car,” Huisman said with a chuckle. “I lived it. It’s just you and an engine, no time for checking your phone. It’s just one-on-one physical.”
The allure of Harley and the Davidsons, a six-hour, decades-long adventure following the founders of the iconic Harley-Davidson brand, almost felt like kismet for the actor. Spend enough time with Huisman and his genuine passion for bikes becomes infectious. (ET exclusively premieres a sneak peek at Part 1 of the miniseries.)
WELLANDTRIBUNE.CA – “This machine … I can’t explain … this is it.”
Those are the words of Walter Davidson, played by Michiel Huisman, after his first long ride through the countryside on a motorcycle. Walter is exhilarated by this crazy machine that he and Bill Harley, played by Robert Aramayo, put together.
Then Walter, the machinist, turns to Bill, the engineer, and asks the inevitable question:
“Can it go faster?”
Young men will be young men, whether it’s 2016 or 1903, am I right?
The new six-hour mini-series Harley and the Davidsons airs on Discovery on three consecutive nights, Monday, Sept. 5, Tuesday, Sept. 6 and Wednesday, Sept. 7. It tracks the history of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and uncovers the little-told story of the Milwaukee men who founded the now-iconic brand.
“There has been so much written about Harley-Davidson history, but not that much written about the lives of the founders,” Huisman said. “So we had to rely on family anecdotes, and quotes that I could find.
“But I love it as an actor, because it feeds my imagination, I think. And hopefully it helped me create a rounded character.”
ENTREPRENEUR – They’re real. They’re unsafe. And they’re spectacular.
We’re talking about the motorcycles featured on Discovery Channel’s scripted miniseries Harley and the Davidsons, which tells the success story of the birth of an iconic American brand, and then watches that brand race around tracks at dangerously high speeds.
The three-part miniseries follows Bill Harley (played by Robert Aramayo), Walter Davidson (Michiel Huisman) and Arthur Davidson (Bug Hall) as they risk their money and futures on building a motorcycle that will one day become the standard for all others.
On the rev up to the premiere, (Monday, Sept. 5 at 9 p.m.) we spoke with the man charged with bringing these machines back to life on screen, bike fabricator Alex Wheeler. Note that we didn’t say “CGI artist.” These bikes are real. And in real life, things get messy. Here are some of the challenges Wheeler and his team faced and how they solved them.
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.”