When she worked at the now-AMC ShowPlace 12 theater in Columbus as a teen, she figured it would be unrealistic, if not impossible, to see herself on the big screen.
“I thought theater would be much more accessible,” Columbus native Chasten Harmon said.
But the young woman who now seems to be doing everything artistically right was wrong about the big-screen prediction.
The 31-year-old New York actress makes her film debut in three scenes in “Paterson,” opening today at the nonprofit YES Cinema, Fourth and Jackson streets downtown. In the movie that details the everyday life of a bus driver, played by fellow Indiana native Adam Driver, Harmon portrays the character of Marie, a barfly and former girlfriend of another barroom character who won’t let go.
“It’s part of a bad breakup,” said Harmon, speaking by phone from her New York apartment.
Two of her scenes are part of the movie’s promotional trailer. The 2003 Columbus East High School graduate laughed when asked when viewers should look for her character to surface in the flick that actually was released late last year.
“Oh — you’ll definitely know,” Harmon said with a laugh. “You won’t miss me.”
She said the script centers heavily on just a few characters, giving people time to focus. The last time locals got the chance to focus on Harmon close-up was three years ago when she and her actress-singer sister, Marja, performed Broadway tunes with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic before a sold-out crowd of 1,100 people.
Harmon sang her signature song, “On My Own,” from her role of Eponine in the nationally touring production of “Les Misérables.” She acknowledged that initially being on her own literally was something of a challenge.
“It’s definitely a hard thing to do to leave home to pursue a career that’s so volatile,” she said.
She still sings professionally occasionally. But for now, she’s pursuing more film roles. It’s hard to tell what that will bring, she said, given the industry’s topsy-turvy uncertainty.
Diane Doup, part of the local Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center that operates the cinema and one who has known the Harmon sisters for years, loves the idea of spotlighting home-grown talent.
“For YES to be able to feature the film for our community to enjoy is very exciting,” Doup said.
Away from the stage, film and television, Harmon finds respite from the drama by knitting scarves, sweaters and the like as part of her business called Plus Armour.
“I like to call it my hobby with benefits,” Harmon said. “It’s a way to continue to focus on being creative in between roles.”
Actually, it’s grown far beyond that. She now sends her work to customers literally around the world, and her Etsy page features 1,334 admirers. Meanwhile, she is uncertain of the possible impact of “Paterson” on her career.
“I’m excited about it,” she said. “But we shot it more than a year ago, so it’s been well in my rearview mirror. I guess you could say it’s fruit that keeps on giving.”
Education: 2003 Columbus East High School graduate. Bachelor’s of fine arts in acting from New York University. Master’s in fine arts in acting from Yale University.
Experience: Includes being a member of the Tony-Award-winning Broadway cast of “Hair!”
Parents: Tom and Mary Harmon of Columbus.
Sibling: Fellow actress and singer Marja Harmon.