GQ (South Africa)
Naomie Harris on her film future
Moonlight made her a capital-s Star. Now, she’s taking the lead in police thriller Black And Blue and preparing to return as Moneypenny…
Naomie Harris was Hand-delivered the script for the latest Bond film, No Time To Die, but it wasn’t a studio runner or even the director who did the deed. For the latest in the ever-secretive franchise, the woman who plays Moneypenny was visited by non other than the legendary Bond producer herself, Barbara Broccoli.
So no men with briefcases handcuffed to their wrists?
‘No, not quite that,’ says Harris, laughing. ‘It was the personal touch.’
And so, straight after, she sat, read it in one go (‘There was no putting it down, no stopping for anything’) and decided two things: it was very good (‘It’s going to be fantastic’) and it has huge twists.
‘It’s a tie-up of Skyfall and Spectre. But with massive, massive surprises that even had me like, “Oh, wow!” So I think we’re going to really shock people.’
At the British GQ Heroes summit in May, Harris had said, ‘The Bond of old, his days are numbered.’
Now she’s read the script, has that proved to be the case in what might be
Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007? ‘I would say that he’s reconnected with his heart. We’re definitely seeing a Bond who’s more in touch with his feelings and more open to falling in love.’
The return of love interest Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) from 2015’s Spectre is, therefore, no coincidence. As Harris adds, ‘At the end of Spectre there are women he gives his career up for: there’s no more emotional attachment than that. It’s just about moving with the times and recognising that women can no longer be seen as eye candy.’
After being nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Moonlight, Harris is now being offered more leads, hence Black
And Blue, in which she plays a police officer who witnesses an illegal killing by corrupt cops and goes on the run after recording it on her body cam.
‘It’s completely different,’ says the 43-year-old of the film offers she gets now. ‘I expected [Moonlight] to make a difference but not on the level it has. It’s completely changed my career. It’s changed how many offers I’ve got, the fee I can command, my standing in the industry, the respect I get given. It’s huge. I wouldn’t have been offered something of the exposure of Black And Blue before Moonlight.’
Black And Blue is a thriller that tackles the thorny question of police body cams. When I ask what surprised her about the issue, Harris says, ‘I think it’s more what depressed me, actually, just the level of police brutality and abuses of power. I just found it all quite distressing and hugely shocking.
It’s really sad, but it’s an amazing time that we live in, that people can record abuses of power on their phone and bring those people who would normally have got away with it to justice.’
There’s a line in the film in which Harris’ character is upbraided by a senior cop: ‘Rookie, you think you’re black? You think they’re your people? They’re not. You’re blue now.’
So, I wonder, as a black woman has Harris ever felt discriminated against by the police?
‘Never, ever,’ she says firmly. In fact, almost the opposite, recently she had her can number plates stolen and after worrying about the trouble that was in the post (“They’re probably currently being used in a bank robbery or something!”) she drove without plates to her local dealership to get new ones. It wasn’t long before the police stopped her.
‘But they were just so sympathetic and understanding. Like, “All right, love. No worries.”
And it wasn’t because they recognised me or anything like that. In my dealings with police I’ve found a great deal of humanity and people who really care – the kind of police officer that my character actually wants to be.’
If empathy is an emotion she’s fully in touch with, anger, she says, very much isn’t. When she played Winnie Mandela in biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, she says, the most difficult thing to get her head around was the righteous rage that drove Winnie: ‘It’s one of the things I’m really bad at.
And I think that’s why a lot of the characters I play are angry, because the one thing I try to avoid in my own life is anger.’
She never blows her top? ‘I would say once every… between four to seven years.’
In fact, says Harris, she’s so lacking in anger that she recently took an anger management course in the hope of discovering some: ‘I had to try to get in touch with my anger, because sometimes you need it to show people where your boundaries are.’
Still, going to anger management did present some problems. Namely: angry people. ‘Most people there had real anger issues. And I found it terrifying, because there I was trying to learn, trying to get in touch with my anger.
But I hate it when people are angry. It really, really terrifies me. And there were all these very angry people!’