Wednesday, 26 October 2016

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Actress steps out of her comfort zone to play desperate woman raising her son

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Actress steps out of her comfort zone to play desperate woman raising her son 

Naomie Harris was scared. She had accepted the role of Paula, a crack addict, in a film called Moonlight. But reading the script, she began to worry about her suitability for the part.
‘I’m teetotal! I don’t drink alcohol; I don’t smoke; I don’t even drink coffee!’ she exclaims.
‘I was like: “How am I going to find a crack addict within me?” ’
The idea alarmed her, but she was excited, too, because the role of this desperate woman, raising her son in a down-and-out district of Florida, was out of her comfort zone, and she knew it would challenge her.
Naomie Harris at The Premiere of 'Moonlight' at Embankment Gardens. As a teetotaller, she had to study hard to play an addict
Naomie Harris at The Premiere of 'Moonlight' at Embankment Gardens. As a teetotaller, she had to study hard to play an addict
She also liked the fact that the film, written and directed by Barry Jenkins and based on a play by Tarell McCraney, a one-time RSC international playwright in residence, was not suggesting that all black people are drug addicts without hope of redemption.
Harris told me she realised after doing some research — and much to her surprise — that she’s not all that different from Paula.
I must have looked surprised, too, because she laughed: ‘There I was, thinking — and judging. She’s an addict. But what I really learned, from watching videos about crack addiction and addicts on You Tube, is that I’m an addict, too. We’re all addicts in some way.
‘Addiction is really about having a pain you can’t deal with; and using drugs — or whatever it is — to numb it. We all have our own sources of pain and emotional trauma and we just use different things to take care of it.
‘Some of us wake in the middle of the night and eat Haagen-Dazs ice cream,’ she says.
Not her, of course. Her thing is work. ‘I overwork, for sure. To compensate for . . . I don’t know. I think it’s just that I’m an observer of life and I’m far more comfortable observing, rather than being in it. Really, my addiction is film — and I serve it by working.’
Her powerful portrait of Paula is among Naomie’s best work, particularly as Paula ages while her son Chiron grows from schoolboy to young adult.
When I saw the picture for a second time, at the Telluride Film Festival, I was struck by one moment when Paula’s body is so riddled with drugs she can barely stagger up the stairs.
Because of visa difficulties, Harris shot all her scenes in three days. The moments she shares with the three actors who play Chiron — Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes — are by turns harsh and heartbreaking.
The picture was lauded at Telluride and that good word-of-mouth followed it to the Toronto International Film Festival, and on to the BFI London Film Festival, where it played last weekend to thunderous ovations (it will go on general release here early next year).
Naomie is grateful to the women she watched on YouTube. ‘I saw people smoke crack; and then I watched tutorials on how to smoke it,’ she said, shaking her head.
‘I met a woman who was a crack addict, and she described her addiction as a love affair gone wrong: you feel like you’re elated and in love and your lover has his claws in you,’ she said, a shiver running through her as she recalled the conversation.
Moonlight is being hailed by critics as one of the best films of the year; and I think a lot of that is down to the acting — not just by Harris, but across the board — as well as Jenkins’s beautiful direction, and the sense that, ultimately, the movie is hopeful.
It’s also good to see Harris in a role that’s the antithesis of Miss Moneypenny in the Bond films; and very different, too, from the counsellor she plays opposite Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley in the upcoming Collateral Beauty, which is due to open at the end of December.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3837278/BAZ-BAMIGBOYE-Actress-steps-comfort-zone-play-desperate-woman-raising-son.html#ixzz4ODYIfvqU
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