Caleel Harris, a Young Star of ‘When They See Us,’ About the Central Park Five

Caleel Harris, a Young Star of ‘When They See Us,’ About the Central Park Five

Name: Caleel Harris

Age: 15

Hometown: Born in Austin, Tex., and raised in Los Angeles.

Now lives: In his family’s home in Studio City, Calif., with his mother, father, brother and sister.

Claim to fame: Mr. Harris starred in “Castle Rock,” a horror series produced by Stephen King for Hulu, and “When They See Us,” a Netflix mini-series about the 1989 Central Park Five case, created by Ava DuVernay. He has chosen his roles carefully. “When you’re creating work, you want to make it as true as possible — to who the character is and to who you are,” he said.

Big break: Mr. Harris started acting at 4, after watching his older brother, Curtis, land a role on “Grey’s Anatomy” at 7. “Once I saw him doing it, I was so mesmerized by just the thought of seeing myself on TV,” Mr. Harris said.

At his first audition, he scored a commercial for Imagination Movers, a touring music act for children. “Acting at the age of 4 is cool, but you can’t fully comprehend what’s going on,” he said. “Around 7 or 8, I began to realize what an amazing craft acting really is.”

Latest project: He portrays Antron McCray, one of the five teenagers who were arrested and wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989, in “When They See Us.” Since the incident took place 15 years before hes was born, he watched “The Central Park Five,” a documentary by Ken Burns about the case, to get into character.

“I watched it over and over to get down the dialect and the central facts of the case,” Mr. Harris said. The process also opened his eyes to the racial politics that still haunt the criminal justice system. “I was shocked because at that point of my life, I wasn’t that familiar with that side of the world,” he said. “I used to think if you’re innocent, you wouldn’t go to jail.”

Next thing: A Hollywood veteran before he could even learn to drive, Mr. Harris is already contemplating his next moves. He hopes to study “the arts and finances” in college (he is currently being home-schooled), as a way to “get into writing and the other parts that go into creating a film,” he said. “I am an actor at heart, but I want to test the waters.”

Life goals: Mr. Harris considers Ms. DuVernay an idol. She is everything I ever want to be and more,” he said. “She is a fierce leader and someone I look up to.”

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