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007 Spectre: Naomie Harris Interview

8 October 2015

This month, Spectre sees the return of James Bond. Also returning to the espionage series is the ever-intriguing Miss Moneypenny, a character that was given a whole lot more to do last time round. Naomie Harris talks to London Calling about the role.

Naomie Harris is extremely good at keeping secrets. Ever elusive and low-key, and well known for politely but firmly refusing to discuss her romantic life in interviews, she proved unbreakable under pressure when continually asked if she was to play Bond’s right-hand woman, Miss Moneypenny, prior to the release of Skyfall.

“It was a nightmare!” she laughs. “Especially since [showbiz journalist] Baz Bamigboye just ‘outed’ me as Moneypenny and then everybody kept asking me, ‘Are you Moneypenny?’ That's a pretty direct question and I just had to lie sometimes!” With these nerves of steel, perhaps the 39-year-old, London-living actress could get a job at the real MI5. After all, the commute wouldn’t be too bad from her home in Finsbury Park, where she lives on the same road as her family.

Harris admits to being a real home girl, who owes much of her assured demeanour to her Jamaican mother, who she describes as “fearless”. “We didn’t grow up with much money at all, but she was always willing to make brave choices. She instilled in me the belief that anything is possible,” Harris nods. It is this unshakeable parental support that has allowed the actress to be bold and uncompromising in her career choices.

A variety of cinematic roles have demonstrated the full range of Harris’ acting ability. From the mysterious and strange voodoo sea goddess in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to Winnie Mandela in last year’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – an undertaking she said “terrified” her, Harris is the sort of actress who demands to be challenged. She’s not interested in being typecast or featured on the tabloid gossip pages; she wants to keep her head down and carve out a successful career.

“I always wanted to be an actress but I never wanted to be famous,” she reveals. “I never wanted it to affect my personal life. So many young people today think that fame is so exciting. It's the ultimate thing and they want to achieve that. But if they really experienced what it’s like, and the pressure that it entails, not being able to walk down the street, hassled by paparazzi, I don't think it's a very nice thing at all.”

Shying away from the attention grabbing tactics so many fame-hungry starlets employ, Harris couldn’t be happier going relatively incognito. “I have the career that I wanted and I’m still able to get on the Tube,” she laughs. “When it works!”

Now Harris returns to her biggest role in the highly anticipated Bond movie, Spectre. Building Moneypenny into an integral cog in Bond’s operation, a confidante, a friend and most importantly one of the very few reprising female characters, Harris has enjoyed exploring her evolution from window dressing to major character.

“I love the fact that they're equals and they have this witty repartee between them. That's really fun,” Harris smiles. “And I love the fact that they respect and trust each other and you really see that in Spectre because Bond chooses Moneypenny to reveal his secret to at the start of the movie over anybody else, whereas everybody else thinks he's out on this rogue mission but he comes to Moneypenny to tell her what's going on.”

Loyalty is a value very dear to Harris, who owes much of her success to Danny Boyle’s casting of her in two projects: “I will always credit him in every interview that I do. When I left drama school, I spent nine frustrating months unemployed because I didn't have any credits to my name and it takes one person to take a risk on you. And that person was Danny [who cast her in 28 Days Later]. From that, everything changed. And then, 10 years later, when my career wasn't going particularly well, he took another risk by casting me as Elizabeth in Frankenstein at the Royal National Theatre and that is the reason why I'm sitting here, because Sam Mendes came to see it and that's why he cast me for this role. So Danny, 100 per cent, changed my career. Twice!”

Although much of Spectre is cloaked in mystery even so close to release, it will almost certainly see the return of series supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (rumoured to be Christoph Waltz’s character) and showcase an array of exotic locations. As usual though, Miss Moneypenny will be holding the fort back in London, something which doesn’t bother Harris at all.

“When I was younger, it was amazing to be heading off to these locations, it was so glamourous and exciting, but now that I'm older I love to stay at home. On Spectre, they all went to these glamorous locations like Morocco and Rome and Austria and they're like, 'Aren't you jealous?' and I'm like, ‘No! I like the easy commute. I’ll take that’!”

Spectre is in cinemas from 26th October.
 

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