David Harbour in We Have a Ghost proves just how talented he is
David Harbour’s breakout role as Jim Hopper on Stranger Things is the one that’s brought him the most acting nominations and awards. But the Dartmouth College drama major’s acting career actually began on Broadway, and in We Have a Ghost, it shows. Big time.
Most people think it’s an asset for stage actors, Broadway or not, to have big booming voices that they’re capable of clearly projecting so the audience can hear their lines. Which, of course, helps. (As do improvements in modern microphone technology.) But facial expressions (in both stage and screen acting) can really set an actor apart. Harbour definitely got to flex those chops in his role as Ernest the ghost.
If you’ve seen the supernatural comedy with a lot of heart, you may know what I’m talking about. Harbour’s part as Ernest is, for the most part, silent. Well, as far as words go. He moans and groans a little here and there trying to scare Kevin (played by Jahi Winston) and his family when they first move in.
If you haven’t seen it, and you like movies like Beetlejuice, We Have a Ghost is fun like that. Except instead of harboring (pun intended) ulterior motives like the titular character Beetlejuice did, Harbour is just a loveable teddy bear of a ghost who thinks he’s trapped in the house he died in. Kevin, with the help of his high-spirited neighbor Joy (Isabella Russo), helps Ernest realize he’s not.
That’s how they end up taking a haunted road trip in search of people who may know what happened to Ernest. The trip leads them away from the media frenzy Ernest’s existence creates when Kevin’s father posts a video on social media that goes viral —and which leads to the CIA getting involved. They want to capture Ernest and study him, as well as potentially figure out a way to weaponize him, I’m sure. (Not that it was explicitly stated in the movie, but it was implied. Or did I read too much into all of that?)
Only David Harbour’s part is silent
Anyway, I had no idea until I started watching that we wouldn’t get to hear Harbour’s deep, velvety voice, something that’s revealed pretty early on when Kevin is first getting to know Ernest.
What? No zippy one-liners like he delivered as Santa Claus in Violent Night?
Yet, whatever the equivalent of silent one-liners is, Harbour pulls it off in We Have a Ghost.
That’s why this role may be one of his best yet as far as demonstrating just how deep his talent runs. (I really liked him as Santa. I could get on board with a Violent Night part 2. Violenter Night? I don’t know. The first one was pretty brutal but I’d love to see them try.)
Anyway, sure. Most actors employ appropriate facial expressions to match their character’s emotions during scenes. All of his fellow We Have a Ghost actors do too. But when that’s all you have to rely on, without any assistance from the meaning of the words or their intonations, that really challenges your skills.
Luckily, Harbour’s uniquely handsome face is the perfect canvas for displaying everything from playfulness to anger to loss, sadness, and compassion in his part as Ernest. I didn’t think he could top what he did in Violent Night, but this movie proved me wrong. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next. What about you?
Do you agree or disagree that David Harbour’s role as Ernest in We Have a Ghost is one of his best yet? Let us know in the comments!