Jaeden Martell On The Larger Life Lessons Of Mr. Harrigan's Phone [Exclusive Interview]

In "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," an adaptation of the novella of the same name from Stephen King's collection "If It Bleeds," we follow a boy named Craig (Jaeden Martell) who is a bit of an introvert. He's a quiet but good kid who struggles with trying to improve his social status and avoiding the attention of the local bully. Over time, Craig comes to gain employ reading to a wealthy recluse named Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland). The pair become unlikely friends, and Craig buys a smartphone for the aging magnate following a stroke of good financial luck. When Mr. Harrigan unexpectedly dies, Craig eerily discovers that reaching out to his deceased friend gets inexplicable responses. What's worse is that when he admits to the dead man that he has enemies, those enemies don't live long.

It's an intriguing supernatural story with strong performances and an eerie, emotional tone throughout. Star Jaeden Martell has a history of leading high profile Stephen King adaptations, first in his excellent performance as Bill in the wildly successful "IT." I spoke with Martell about Craig and Mr. Harrigan's unlikely friendship, the differences between the Stephen King adaptations under his belt, and more.

'I felt very, very lucky and I learned so much'

Note: This interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

I really like "IT" a lot, and this your second time getting top billing in a Stephen King adaptation. How is your character in "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" different than Bill for you?

Martell: I think one of the biggest differences was [in] the relationships he had with other people. I love this film because I was able to work with Donald Sutherland, who everyone knows is incredible, but I like this dynamic of teacher and student, and I like how much [Craig] evolves throughout the story. [In] "IT" ... everyone was on an even playing field, and [Bill] was around his best friends and had no one to really look up to. The character Bill stayed the same. He had strong convictions, whereas Craig has strong convictions in a lot of ways, but he does have a lot of faults. And he grows throughout the whole thing, which I loved.

You're one of the few people in "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" to get screen time with Donald Sutherland, and you get a lot of it. Tell me about working with him.

Martell: It was beautiful. It's something I'll never forget. I was a little intimidated because of who he was. Not him personally, [but] because he's someone that I look up to. Being able to sit across from him a few feet away, and in a very simple but beautiful setup, just me sitting in a chair and him sitting across from me, and just watching him work every day ... I felt very, very lucky, and I learned so much. He was also very kind, very funny, very loving.

'You can embrace the relationships that you have'

Craig and Mr. Harrigan are unconventional companions, and that relationship is at the heart of the film in an important way. Why do they gravitate towards each other?

Martell: I think when you're a kid, you sort of find yourself in situations, and you find yourself in relationships, and nothing is really up to you. Your parents, your siblings — you're just born into things. He was thrown into this relationship with Harrigan. Eventually it evolved and they became friends. In his own volition he stayed with Harrigan, and Harrigan questioned their relationship. Craig wanted to make sure that he was there just because he enjoyed it. He enjoyed reading with him, and he was learning and growing because of the relationship. Another beautiful aspect of that was Harrigan started learning from Craig, not only with [Craig] teaching him about his phone and technology, but on a personal level. [Things like] how to let people in, and how everything isn't black and white. You don't need to be successful, you don't need to cut everyone off. You don't need to deal with your enemies in a harsh way. Life is sort of fragile and beautiful, and you can embrace those relationships that you have.

"Mr. Harrigan's Phone" is now available to stream on Netflix.