We recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview actress Naomie Harris about her recent role in Austin Chick’s August which available today on DVD from First Look Studios. Naomie is perhaps best known for her role as Tia Dalma in the recent film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. She is also currently working on Ninja Assassin by director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta).
1. Please tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from and what inspired you to become an actress?
Born and brought up in London, England; and of Jamaican/Trinidadian descent, I have wanted to be an actress ever since I can remember. My mum says that even at two years old, when asked I’d say I was going to act as a living.
I can’t really say that there’s a particular person or event that inspired me to act, I just have always found the feeling of being someone else and accessing the different world they inhabit, incredibly cathartic.
2. Who is your biggest influence as an actress?
I think my mum has been my biggest influence because, even though I went to drama school in England and worked with some great drama teachers, my mum is the best acting coach I’ve ever had. My mum is a writer by profession and doesn’t see herself as an acting coach, but she’s brilliant at it… she makes me feel that I am capable of anything and is always incredibly insightful about the roles I play.
3. Tell us about your recent role as Sarrah in “August” by director Austin Chick.
Sarrah is a strong young woman, but totally in love with Josh Hartnett’s character in the film ‘August’, she knows that he’s wrong for her and tries to break away from him, but when their paths cross again at the beginning of the movie, she decides to give him one last chance.
4. How did you prepare for your role?
Josh, Austin (the director) and I spent a week rehearsing in New York and creating back stories for the characters. I also worked in a bar, which I’ve never done before, in order to learn how to may proper cocktails. An interesting experience for me, as I don’t drink alcohol.
5. What aspects of that character do you identify with?
I identify with Sarrah’s strength, her drive and passion for her career as an architect, and her desire to see the best in people and want to give them a second chance.
6. Of all the films that you’ve done, what would you consider your most memorable roles?
The roles that most people remember me for are Selena in ’28 Days Later’ and Tia Dalma in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, but I think the role that was most memorable for me was playing Clara in ‘White Teeth’. Clara was the most open, liberated and fun to play of the roles I’ve had.
7. Tell us about your upcoming projects. Give us the scoop!
My next project is called ‘Ninja Assassin’ directed by James McTeigue (‘V for Vendetta’) and produced by The Wachowski Brothers. In the movie I play a forensic researcher who’s research into the world of ninja’s makes her a target, and she ends up having to be rescued and going on the run with a rogue ninja. I haven’t seen the final cut of the movie yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be great!
8. From an actor’s standpoint what is the most important thing a Director can bring to the set?
The most important thing a director can bring to the set is an atmosphere of non-judgment. Acting can make you feel very vulnerable and exposed. A good director always makes his/her actors feel protected and safe to experiment which may involve falling flat on your face, because not all experiments work… but, by making an actor feel totally free to mess up, they allow room for some brilliant moments to occur.
9. Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
Get as much training as you can. The film environment is very pressurized, the one thing everyone complains about not having enough of is … time. Everyone messes up at times on set, and that’s fine, and everyone is always learning, but you have to ensure that you can at least hold your own and deliver a competent performance before getting on set or you’ll end up frustrating a lot of people.
10. When all is said and done, what 3 things would you like for people to remember about you?
The most important thing for me would be to be remembered as someone who tried, in all areas of her life, to be the best person she could be.
By Brian Corder
Photo Courtesy: First Look Studios