Thursday, 21 November 2013

Essence EXCLUSIVE: Naomie Harris on Portraying Winnie Mandela and How She Got Over Being Intimidated By Idris Elba

EXCLUSIVE: Naomie Harris on Portraying Winnie Mandela and How She Got Over Being Intimidated By Idris Elba


Naomie Harris
PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE GRANITZ/ GETTY
It's not often that an actress has a chorus of voices telling her how to portray a character. But that was Naomie Harris' experience when she agreed to portray Winnie Mandela in the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (out November 29). "I had so many people telling me how she should be played—from the producer to the extras on set," Harris says. "Everybody had an opinion about how Winnie should be played. And I get it, she's an icon."
Harris finally got a clearer idea of Nelson Mandela's former wife when she met her while filming in South Africa. Here, she shares how she prepared to play Winnie, how she got over her nerves of working with co-star Idris Elba and her impressions of South Africa.

ESSENCE.com: How does one prepare for such an epic role, playing Winnie Mandela?
Noamie Harris: Well, you just do a ton of research. I watched documentaries about the apartheid era. Lots of them. I watched uncut footage of her being interviewed. I talked to lots of people who knew her. And I sat down with her. That's when things started coming together because the thing about researching Winnie is that you get such polarized views. My challenge was to put all of that information together to make a cohesive character. Meeting her is when it all fell into place in terms of understanding who she is. I said to her, 'How do you want to be portrayed?' And she said, 'All I ask is that you portray me faithfully.'

ESSENCE.com: Did you recall your first memories of Nelson and Winnie Mandela?
Harris: Not of Winnie, but Nelson. I remember the "Free Nelson Mandela" concert in London and asking my mom what it all meant. I remember her telling us not to buy fruits in a certain supermarket because they were from South Africa and we were trying to support the sanctions against South Africa.

ESSENCE.com: Nelson Mandela's daughter Zindzi recently called Idris Elba an honorary Mandela. Do you feel like an honorary Mandela yet?
Harris: [Laughs] No, but I was told I was an honorary South African. I really appreciate it.

ESSENCE.com: Idris said that you blew his socks off while filming this movie. What are your impressions of him as an actor?
Harris: He's absolutely amazing. The thing I really love about him is that he really held my hand through this whole experience. We didn't do an audition together so the first time I met him was in rehearsals in Cape Town and it was really intimidating because he seemed to have the voice down, and the accent. I was like, 'Wow, he's so much further than me' so I was seriously intimidated. After the rehearsal he came up to me and said, 'I'm terrified. Are you?' It was really beautiful and it really, for me, sums up Idris. He's so willing to be vulnerable, and he's so open and generous. He's there for you as an actor. He's so fantastic as Mandela that watching him perform, helped me to be better.

ESSENCE.com: On a lighter note, you get to have a lot of intimate moments with Idris—something a lot of women would love. Do you see him as a sex symbol the same way we do?
Harris: [Laughs] I can't see him that way. I know he's hugely handsome and charming, but to me he's like a brother. In fact, he reminds me a lot of my younger brother. They have the same physique and the same charm. My brother's exceptionally handsome in the same way Idris is. Essentially, you can't fancy the guy you're filming with.

ESSENCE.com: You spent a good amount of time filming in South Africa. What were your impressions of the country?
Harris: It's absolutely beautiful. But I still feel there's a lot of racial tension. There's been an incredible amount of progress, but there's still further to go. What I will take away from the country is the  warmth of the people. I was really blown away by that. The fact that we were there—two British actors playing iconic figures in their history. And while there was some stuff written in the beginning about why they weren't particularly happy about the fact that we were British, once we started filming, they really got behind us. Even when I was filming, extras would come up to me and say, 'You know when you said that word, it wasn't quite right.' And it wasn't critical at all, it was like, I'm here to help you. I don't know if I've ever experienced that anywhere else in the world.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom opens in theaters November 27.

Idris Elba's portrayal of Nelson Mandela was so convincing the man himself was fooled into thinking he was in new film

'Is that me?' Idris Elba's portrayal of Nelson Mandela was so convincing the man himself was fooled into thinking he was in new film 

Idris Elba has revealed he was so convincing in his portrayal of Nelson Mandela that the former South African leader was fooled into believing he was in the film.
The Luther star said the ailing statesmen was shown a clip of the film which is released in the US next week and has generated Oscar buzz for his performance.
The actor spent hours studying news clips of the 95 year old Mandela to perfect his mannerisms and he also had a dialect coach to perfect his accent for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Is that me? Idris Elba revealed he was so convincing in his portrayal of Nelson Mandela that the former South African leader was fooled into believing he was in the film based on this scene
Is that me? Idris Elba revealed he was so convincing in his portrayal of Nelson Mandela that the former South African leader was fooled into believing he was in the film based on this scene
Convincing turn: Actor Idris Elba attends the New York premiere of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom on Thursday after Mandela himself believed he'd appeared in the film
Convincing turn: Actor Idris Elba attends the New York premiere of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom on Thursday after Mandela himself believed he'd appeared in the film
Convincing turn: Actor Idris Elba attends the New York premiere of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom on Thursday after Mandela himself believed he'd appeared in the film 
Elba said he was flattered when he heard Mandela mistook his portrayal for himself.
He said:'There is a scene in the end of film where I am walking. You cannot see my face, but it’s got the shirt and I'm walking up the hill. He said: ‘Is that me?'. How did you do that.'
Elba told ABC News the elder statesman had thought he was watching an actual news clip.
Good job: Idris said he was flattered when he heard Mandela mistook his portrayal for himself
Good job: Idris said he was flattered when he heard Mandela mistook his portrayal for himself
The actor said it was an honour to play Mandela, playing him from his 20s until his late 70s.
He admitted that he thought he would not be able to pull off playing such a well known and loved figure.
'The main concern for me was the look-a-like thing. Everybody knows what he sounds like and what he looks like.
Long haul: The film shoot for Nelson Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom lasted six months in South Africa
Long haul: The film shoot for Nelson Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom lasted six months in South Africa
'So as much as I'm an actor, and I'm an ambitious one, it just seemed beyond the realms of what I could do.'
In an interview for Entertainment Weekly magazine Elba said he spent hours watching news clips of Mandela to perfect his accent.
But he said his own father, who was from Sierra Leone, also helped.
'There are certain ways that African men speak English, and Mandela and my dad sort of fall into  similar category. They are very grammar conscious and like to use long words.'
The film shoot lasted six months in South Africa.
The trailer opens with scenes of conflict; guns being loaded, explosions and white soldiers rushing into combat, with the statements, 'public enemy #1', 'hunted by the police' and 'feared by the government' flashing in between.
His rock: Naomie Harris plays Mandela's wife Winnie and their love story plays out I the film from when she first captured his eye through her social activism by being the first black social worker in South Africa
His rock: Naomie Harris plays Mandela's wife Winnie and their love story plays out I the film from when she first captured his eye through her social activism by being the first black social worker in South Africa
Then the 'revolutionary, outlaw, rebel, radical, liberator' Nelson comes on to the screen, standing on a podium in front of a crowd of protestors at a race rally.
It then introduces Naomie, 36, as Winnie and their love story from when she first captured Nelson's eye through her social activism by being the first black social worker in South Africa.
He describes her as 'the most beautfiul girl I've ever seen', but their love story is not the main narrative arc of the movie, for Nelson's 67 year role as a leader for black rights is the primary focus of the man who says in the trailer 'Freedom, it is an ideal of which I am prepared to die.'
The film is directed by British filmmaker Justin Chadwick - of The Other Boleyn Girl and BBC's Bleak House fame - while the script was penned by William Nicholson who was nominated for an Academy award for Gladiator, and wrote the screenplay for last year's critical and box-office success Les Miserablé.
Oscar nod? The film is directed by British filmmaker Justin Chadwick - of The Other Boleyn Girl while the script was penned by William Nicholson who was nominated for an Academy award for Gladiator
Oscar nod? The film is directed by British filmmaker Justin Chadwick - of The Other Boleyn Girl while the script was penned by William Nicholson who was nominated for an Academy award for Gladiator
Leading roles: Idris Elba and Naomi Harris who plays Madela's wife Winnie in the film attended the screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom in New York City
Leading roles: Idris Elba and Naomi Harris who plays Madela's wife Winnie in the film attended the screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom in New York City


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2511295/Nelson-Mandela-fooled-Idria-Elba-thinking-new-film-actor.html#ixzz2lKGRo8kP
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Photos: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts An Official Academy Members Screening Of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts An Official Academy Members Screening Of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom


Patrick Harrison, Idris Elba, Naomie Harris and Justin Chadwick attend The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts An Official Academy Members Screening Of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Academy Theater at Lighthouse International on November 12, 2013 in New York City.


Idris Elba, Naomie Harris and Justin Chadwick attend The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts An Official Academy Members Screening Of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Academy Theater at Lighthouse International on November 12, 2013 in New York City.