sam mendez & naomi harris

Sam Mendez & Naomi Harris

*James Bond films have always used a number of characters from diverse backgrounds, including Blacks.

Bond girl Gloria Hendry, Julius Harris, Geoffrey Holder, Grace Jones, Sebastian Foucan, Isaach De Bankole, are among them. Colin Salmon, who appears in TV’s “Arrow,” was M’s Chief of Staff for three of the movies.

Halle Berry was Jinx in “Die Another Day” and Jeffrey Wright played CIA agent Felix Leiter in “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.”

Now, in an act of blind casting, Naomi Harris has been assigned the role of Moneypenny in “Skyfall.” Although “Skyfall” doesn’t open until November in the United States, the cast and filmmakers were in New York this week at the Crosby Hotel to talk about this game changing film.

The Film Strip asked director Sam Mendes was it his call to cast Harris as Moneypenny or did Ian Fleming make mention of these racial orientations in his books.

“I would love to think that this has to do with Fleming,” he offered, “but we invented all of this. I think you know how times have changed. If you read the beginning of ‘Live and Let Die,’ it’s not entirely racially sound I would say. So he was a product of his time. We are living in a different time and I hope this movie reflects the time we live in.”

What else can you tell us about the new Bond?
We had a stroke of good luck on this movie ultimately. One of the most frustrating things for us was the temporary bankruptcy of MGM, which for me at the time was a bit of a nightmare. We had to hold everything if you remember for something like nine months. So we took the time and care to get every every nuisance, every moment, every inflection in those scenes. Of course you have to cast exceptional actors and I was unbelievable lucky in that every single person I asked said yes.

What was it like making this particular film?
Making this Bond movie, for me certainly, was like discovering your 13-year-old self. It was a great delight for me as somebody who has kids to find that part of myself in making a film again? You know all my films have been R-rated movies and here I was trying to get in touch with that part of myself, just trying to find my inner 13 year-old [laughs].

Was it difficult trying to sell Naomi as Moneypenny to the producers?
No. When I met with them, I offered ideas about Moneypenny, Q and a flamboyant villain and they said yes.

Bond has become an action hero but you choose to show a side of him we haven’t seen before. Why was that?
I wanted to push the franchise into areas it hadn’t been before. Clearly there’s no point in doing something that is a rehash or just recover the same ground. I felt what I saw in ‘Casino Royale’ was a Bond, as an actor, capable of handling a much bigger personal journey. I think the thing about Bond for me while watching the old movies is that there is a point around ‘Moonraker’ where it lost some of its thriller roots and went into more of a action adventure, almost travelogue type feeling.

In ‘Casino Royale’ I felt like Bond was back at the center of the movie. And that doesn’t mean because he was onscreen the whole time. It means he actually had a journey. You had some emotional stake. He fell in love in that movie. That was the first movie in many years that had been based on a  great Fleming novel.

Also, the movie argues for old values like trust, friendship, and courage. And Daniel is doing a huge amount in this film. He allows himself not only to appear aging and bruised and wounded but be told by all the other characters that because he is aging, it might be time to throw in the towel. He is the  bedrock of the film even though there is a satellite of people around him. It’s a weird burden of a role incredible skill.

“Skyfall” opens in the US, November 9, 2012 and exclusive interviews will be posted here every week until such time.

Syndicated columnist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]