Debbie Harry is a frontwoman with the ability to make you believe every single word she sings — and this is no happy accident. The Blondie leader is a firm believer in method acting, a kile in which she has religiously integrated into her own on-stage persona.
The version of Harry that fans are greeted with during live performance was an incomparable character that existed to her closest friends. She formed the Blondie personality behind closed doors, treating the role with the same level of seriousness as she would if she stepped foot on a Hollywood film set.
While Harry is flamboyant when it comes to showtime, in her personal life, the singer has always been a firm believer in the sanctuary of privacy. Despite being in the spotlight for decades, Harry has successfully maintained a health measure of distance. The new-wave icon puts this down to learning the basics of method acting from the late theatre director Tony Ingrassia, who worked closely with the group.
“He was a very flamboyant and a loud guy, and was responsible for a lot of cool projects, even though he was very unsung.” Harry once said about Ingrassia. “He was a slave driver. He was making us work very hard and not to sing technically, but to sing emotionally”.
Harry believes it is common for performers to morph into somebody else for the sake of their art. Detailing further during a conversation with the Washingtonian in 2019, she added: “I feel that all performers have a public persona and a sense of character about themselves as well as their personal life and their more intimate personality that they share with friends or lovers. So, in that respect I think it’s fairly common.”
Harry continued: “But I think for Blondie especially, at that time, since there were sort of prescribed personality values that were applicable to girls and to women, and so I used some of that in the way that I presented Blondie. And I still do that for obvious reasons, because it’s connected to the material and it’s connected to this – I put it in quotation marks – ‘character’ of Blondie”.
By becoming a caricature of herself when she performs, Harry has gained a sense of freedom on-stage while adding an intriguing element of mystery. However, first and foremost, she originally adopted the technique to make audiences buy into the authenticity of her performances. “Initially, it helped me to really bring strong emotional content to songs that I didn’t write,” Harry told Rolling Stone. “The hard part is — and it’s the same for actors as for singers — to make choices for yourself that are going to resonate within your life experience and your emotional world.”
Adding: “When I started out, [the Method] gave me that overview kind of thing, where you’re looking down at yourself. This, to me, was a tremendous advantage”.
At first, it provided her with a beneficial level of separation from her art. However, as the years have gone on, the method has become even more of a blessing. Still, after nearly 50 years, only a few select people know where Debbie Harry ends, and the Blondie “character” begins.