Naomie Harris on Bond and working with Mahershala Ali in “Schwanengesang”

Given the tough 12 months in the cinema, it would be an achievement to appear in only one of the top 10 top-grossing films of the year. Naomie Harris has appeared in two films, No Time to Die and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, as MI6 secretary Moneypenny and superhero Shriek, respectively.

Now the actress, who has spent much of her career moving seamlessly between big-budget blockbusters like “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and indie fare, ends the year on screen in “Swan Song” of Apple Original Films alongside Mahershala Ali, a sci-fi teardrop who is already taking on Oscar craze.

And as if she wasn’t busy enough, having recently wrapped the Showtime series “The Man Who Fell to Earth” alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harris is making her production debut, she says exclusively diversity, on a project about an aspect of black history that traditionally has not been explored enough in the cinema and in which she would like to act.

While Harris’ rise may seem effortless, it hasn’t always felt this way, she admits. It wasn’t until 2016’s Moonlight, when she and Ali worked together for the first time and each received an Oscar nomination (Ali won in its category), that Harris felt things were taking off.

“At so many points in my career people have said, ‘This is the moment your career is about to begin; You’ll never have to worry about work again, ”says Harris diversity. “You know, ‘do'[Pirates of the Caribbean]’and you’ll be fine; to do [James Bond]’You’ll be fine again.’ And what actually made the biggest difference was that tiny little film in which I didn’t actually pay anything and worked on it for three days. And that was ‘moonlight’. “

So it may not come as a surprise that when Ali stepped aboard Swan Song as producer and lead actor, Harris took the opportunity to reunite with him on screen. “When I was working on ‘Moonlight’ with Mahershala, we only worked together for one day and didn’t really have a lot of time to really understand each other’s technique or whatever,” says Harris. “But then I spent months with him, doing the entire advertising campaign for the film and really getting to know him as a person and he’s just a phenomenal person.”

It helps that the actors have a similar approach to their work. “Most people like to rehearse a lot and talk to their co-stars and analyze the script, but we’re exactly the same: we don’t like any of these,” Harris explains. “We all do our own research and come to the set prepared and then just want to play, just see what’s going on at the moment and create the magic there instead of intellectualizing or rehearsing it.”

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Harris first played alongside Mahershala Ali on “Moonlight”.
Courtesy Apple Original Films

The film by Oscar-winning writer and director Benjamin Cleary stars as Ali Cameron, a terminally ill man who ponders whether or not to secretly clone himself in order to spare his wife Poppy (Harris) the pain of coming to terms with his death After she has already lost both her parents and her twin brother.

Despite her enthusiasm for the “phenomenal” script, it took Harris time to take on her character. “To be honest, I had to go on a journey to allow myself to fully connect with Poppy,” admits Harris. “I’ve always chosen to play these very strong characters, and I didn’t think of her as strong because she was so vulnerable and so outspoken. And at first I felt that was weak. So I really had to go on an inner journey to overcome my judgment of her. In the end I discovered that she is actually one of my strongest characters because it takes so much strength to be so open-hearted. “

It helped that the film was “one of the best sets I’ve ever seen,” says Harris, explaining that in one of her first Zoom conversations with Cleary, the director told her that he had the cast and crew based on ” their heart-centeredness. “

“I think to be a really good director you have to be incredibly sensitive,” says Harris. “And [Cleary] is so sensitive that I thought I know he will be a phenomenal director and that I am in good hands with him. “

Could Harris, who describes herself as “super emotional,” see herself in the director’s chair one day? She thinks it’s unlikely. “I love my freedom as an actor. I’m always so grateful to be able to work on my own part, on my own contribution, and then I come and I deliver, but I’m not responsible for anyone, you know. While as a director I would be responsible for literally everyone. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. “

Harris, however, would like to get behind the camera as a producer and is currently working on her first project which is currently in the writing phase, she says. “At the moment there is a project that I’m producing and I’m starting with it,” she says. “I’ll play in it. I don’t know if I can really say much more. It is [about] Exploring parts of Black History that have not yet been explored. That’s why I’m really happy about it. “

When it comes to representing people of color in the industry, Harris says she has “seen tons of change” and points to “swan song” as an example. “This is a project that was not written with a black family in mind, Ben will be happy to admit, but Mahershala used his platform to change the look of the family. And it doesn’t change the story either. It does not change anything in its effect, does not change anything in its message. But it just means that it offers opportunities for People of Color that wouldn’t have existed. “

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Naomi Harris played again as Moneypenny in the latest James Bond series “No Time to Die”.
Everett collection

She also believes the display below the line is improving, noting that those in charge of “The Man Who Fell to Earth” have done “a phenomenal job of making sure the crew is ethnically diverse”.

None of this means that the industry has solved all of its diversity and representation problems. “I think there is definitely still a lot of room for improvement,” says Harris, specifically naming the types of stories that are being told.

“I really want to learn more about my history and that of my ancestors and have the opportunity to bring these historical stories to screen. This is something that is very important to me. Because I think too often black history is only associated with slavery. And that’s only a very small part of what makes an incredibly interesting and extensive one [Black history.] There is just so much [of it], it is so rich and I think that it has been completely under-explored. “

When Daniel Craig finally retires as James Bond, is it time for a black or even female 007? Harris, who is undoubtedly skilled at answering the question, answers diplomatically. “I just find it sad that we are focusing on the sex and focusing on the color of Bond,” she says. “Because I think that’s the least interesting part of Bond.”

“I think we want a Bond to have all of the qualities that we associate with Bond, and that makes us excited to see a Bond movie. And I think that’s more important than color, more than gender. So I’m completely open to whatever Bond looks like [and] sounds like. I just want a Bond who, like Daniel, is the ultimate Bond. “

With Craig leaving the franchise for good – and Bond himself leaving under dire circumstances at the end of the film – the fate of his castmates, including Harris, Ralph Fiennes as M and Ben Whishaw as Q, has yet to be confirmed. Is there a chance they will return to the franchise with a new bond?

“I really don’t know,” says Harris. “I really do not know it. I do not know which direction they will go. I am fascinated by seeing things where they were and I’m so excited to see where they are going. But I don’t know if I would be there. “

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