Naomie Harris Profile

New York Moves

Naomie harris  moves profile

Something seems oddly appropriate about the image of a young Naomie Harris standing in her living room and preaching stories from her children’s Bible. Maybe it’s that certain comforting, cough-drop quality she exudes while speaking, or maybe it’s simply the subtle live-by-my-own-rules attitude she makes so effortlessly appealing and inspiring, but either way it’s pretty clear that in the coming future plenty of more people will be listening up to what this actress has to say.

To many, Naomie Harris is the person behind unique characters like voodoo priestess Tia Dalma from the Pirates of the Carribean movies and post-apocalyptic survivor Selena in the thriller 28 Days Later. And while she has added an impressive range of script choices from the time of her acting beginnings at age nine- including roles in Miami Vice with Colin Ferrell and Jamie Fox, Street Kings with Keanu Reeves, and August with Josh Hartnett- indeed proving that she has the talent and drive which acting greats are made of, what makes Harris stand apart most of all, in many ways, are the brains that she displays off the screen.

And although her film choices up to this point may label her, to some, as the go-to for the perfect strong and assertive female-type, Naomie is quick to note that she prefers not to be boxed into such category. “I’m drawn to women who are multi-layered and complex, as we as women are,” she says. “We’re not one-dimensional; we’re not just the sex-object. No woman is ever as simple as that[...] and no ones just a hero.”

“Everybody has their dark side,” Harris continues. “Everybody also has their light side. Even the worst human being that you can think of, at some moment in time, has shown immense kindness and generosity. We’re just all so complex, and that’s what fascinating to portray.”

Raised by her mother in North London, Harris has known acting was in the stars for her from the start, it seems. She has also, however, had her share to overcome in order to make sure her name got written in those same stars. “My mum had to be the mother and the father to me, the nurturer and the provider,” she says about her single-parent upbringing. “But It did give me an immense amount of respect for women, and I didn’t feel like- I still don’t feel like- you need a man for, really, anything. You can do pretty much everything on your own.”

It’s that very same independence, it seems, that allowed Naomie to rise above the neglection and bullying she received as a young teenager as well. “I created an imaginary world which I retreated to. And that’s where I go to when I create characters, so, it actually helped my acting a little,” she says of how she dealt with her earlier years in school. “I just thought, I’m going to think my own way, I’m going to act my own way, and I’m going to live by my own rules. [But] it also gives you a great deal of empathy for others because you feel you know what it’s like to be ostracized. Your heart opens up [and] you want to make everyone feel included.”

Although these are the kinds of things that may have propelled Naomie to consider dropping out of school at 16, her mother- a writer and scholar herself- stressed education as an essential part of life. And so it happened that Naomie went on to get accepted into a little school known as Cambridge University, where she studied social and political sciences, out of all things, thanks to an inspiration sociology teacher she had in school. “[T]he same kinds of questions that I asked myself during my degree about what makes an individual an individual and group behavior[…]those are the same kinds of questions that you apply when you’re creating a character as an actor.”

Listening to her speak, it's clear that those questions resonate for Naomie, personally and in her worldviews. Her social understanding is metered and compassionate, and she understands the separation between superficial qualities and individualities. “People are so much more than their color,” she says about what she once referred to as ‘the black thing,’ especially when it comes to acting. “It’s really about cultural and life experiences, the way you’re brought up- all these different factors that make an individual unique. And a person who is black and brought up in Idaho in some remote community has a completely different experience of being black to someone who is brought up in West L.A. in a black community. And so to just have an all-encompassing role is not representative at all. It’s backwards thinking. We should think more in terms of individuals rather than trying to categorize and stereotype people. Getting the right person for the role is far more important than getting the right color for the role.”

And it’s this very notion of moving past race which left Naomie so inspired by the most recent U.S. election. “Having a leader like Obama definitely affects the rest of the world […] [since] America still is the place that everyone looks to for direction,” she says. “It [the 2008 presidential election] showed a mark of the times and how things have changed and how truly anything is possible in this era. It wasn’t that long ago when it just wouldn’t be possible to have a Black president of the United States. So just having someone like Obama, irrespective of his color, actually, just having someone who’s as forward thinking as he is and concerned about the environment, his efforts with the health care system[…] He’s really quite radical in that sense in terms of promoting change [and] really actively seeking to bring about change. And that’s important not just for America but for the rest of the world to see.”

America has expressed itself by electing an executive office that is so radically different than its predecessor. Naomie recognizes the strides made in this public voicing of opnion,, and boldy supports the interaction between government and society. "Having an opportunity to speak your mind is hugely important, and hugely beneficial to whoever’s in government as well. You’ve got to hear the people. There should be a two-way flow between the people you govern and the government. That’s how it works best."

It's clear that Naomie admires the qualities of honest advancement, both in government and in her personal life. "It’s really important to speak your truth, even if that means upsetting someone else. It liberates you. Truth is a hard thing for many people to deal with, but I think it can make you quite unhealthy actually, if you’re constantly swallowing your truth and not expressing who you are.”

Naomie has an enlightened view of a world lit of opportunity and possibility. She recognizes that few things come easily, but that the benefits of perseverance are worth the challenge. "I had a vision for my life and many people said you cant do that and you cant have that, because of this, that, or the other reason, and I never listened. I think it’s a great way to live, to keep following your heart. Because then your mistakes are your own, not anybody else’s. And you can say that you’ve lived your life. There’s no point in living anyone else’s." Absolutely, Naomie.

Naomie harris  moves profile Naomie_Harris__MOVES_Profile_.jpg

Naomie harris  moves profile  2 Naomie_Harris__MOVES_Profile__2.jpg

Back