Ian Harding graduated from Prep in 2005 and was the commencement speaker for his year. After graduating from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 2009, he moved to Los Angeles where he found work in film and television, most notably Pretty Little Liars, Chicago Med, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts and Ford vs. Ferrari. He has also been the voice of American Express and Target.
In 2016 he published a memoir titled "Odd Birds" and returned to Prep in 2018 to deliver a speech on his writing.
He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Sophie Hart.
What have you done since graduating from Prep?
I went to Carnegie Mellon's school of Drama from 2005 to 2009 then graduated, moved to LA and have been working in film and television ever since. I've also been building a life which I think is far more important than the previous statement.
What was one of your favorite memories during your time at Prep?
Thankfully, I have many. Pretty much any experience on stage in Figge or with the Prep singers.
Maybe the more important memories from Prep weren't exactly my favorite (most of them were far from enjoyable), but were rather the most meaningful. A week into my freshman year, 9/11 happened, and the following year was the DC sniper. In my junior year I lost a classmate to a car accident. These were deeply transformative experiences, and for the most part the Prep community came together with grace and hope in each incident, and I'm grateful to have had the people around me that I did.
How did Jesuit education prepare you for your career in film and television?
I've always thought that my Jesuit education prepared me extremely well for life in general, (work ethic, working for a greater purpose, devotion to family and community etc.), but I haven't given much thought to the more specific question of how it helped prepare me for a life in the performing arts.
My initial thoughts would have to do with being able to think deeply about the work I do, and how that work fits into the bigger picture. As in, how does this show/film create a bigger and more conversation, or can I do this job even though it's sort of silly but the paycheck is substantial thus I can donate 10% of my earnings to a worthy cause, etc.
Also, in a more obvious way, by participating in dramatic interpretation on the speech and debate team, I was able to get comfortable and perform well within small, poorly lit spaces in front of total (and very judgmental) strangers, which is basically what auditioning for Film and TV is.
What impact did Georgetown Prep have on you?
I don't think Prep's impact on me can be fully articulated on this page. I suppose in a broad sense, it helped instill a sense of duty and purpose in me, as well as forcing me to ask myself, both then and every day, what kind of man I wish to be, and have the CHOICE to be. I think this comes from the fact that the school felt like it cared more about HOW you thought as opposed to WHAT you thought. Prep wanted to give you the tools to craft the foundations of who you would become as a whole person, as opposed to what I often found in the education of my non prep friends, which was simply to get you to test well and regurgitate information that meant nothing to you.
What advice do you have for current Prep students?
SO MUCH, but for the sake of brevity:
#1 Take (reasonable) risks and make yourself uncomfortable. The whole point of a fantastic education isn't to prepare you to simply follow some preordained path, but to give you the intellect and flexibility to test yourself and surpass what you believe is possible.
#2 Oh and beat Landon, if that's still a thing...