*”The Internet has unleashed hoards of haters to spew insidious and moronic messages that go viral. In “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” Edi Gathegi played Laurent.
There was a loud outcry from some Twihards that felt a Black man should not have been cast in that role although the book described the character as having olive skin. Fast forward to 2011 and brilliant director Kenneth Branagh cast the fine actor Idris Elba as “Thor,” and some fans went nuts again. The exceedingly popular film that also stars Chris Hemsworth spawned a sequel, “Thor: The Dark World,” and judicious director Alan Taylor kept Idris on as Heimdall. The extremely successful “…Hunger Games” had some fans losing their minds because Amandla Stenberg played Rue and Lenny Kravitz was Cinna. It got so vicious, A Huffington Post blogger reported that a rabid racist twitter account “no longer exists” because of her attacks against Sternberg. So not only was that fan biased but ignorant because in the “Hunger Games” book, Rue was Black!
Not letting vitriolic backlashes deter him, multi-Oscar nominated and Golden Globe winner Sam Mendes bit the bullet and cast Naomi Harris as Moneypenny in “Skyfall.” In previous James Bond films, the role went to White actresses. In exclusive interviews with Harris and new Bond girl Berenice Marlohe, they told The Film Strip what they thought of their roles in an iconic franchise that has lasted 50 years. As a graduate with honors from Cambridge University With a degree in social and political science, I asked Harris what led her to the acting. “I feel like I’m 100 different personalities,” she laughs. “Seriously, I do. I feel like that’s the reason why I have to be an actress because I get an opportunity to air those different characters. Without that opportunity I’d probably go crazy. So, rather than looking outside of myself to find characters, I look within. So Eve [character in “Skyfall”] is definitely within me, that adventurous side, that gung-ho mentality, that running into the danger and actually find it exhilarating to be in the midst of it. That kind of I’m going to rough and tumble with the guys. All of that has to be within me or I wouldn’t be able to play it.
“But, yeah I always knew I was going to be an actress but I wanted to go to the University to kind of get another string to my bow and also because I always felt like if I didn’t go, I’d have this thing: Are there other people more intelligent than me? Now that I’ve been, I know that’s not true at all. But I didn’t want to have that kind of feeling, that fear.”
Compared to “28 Days Later,” how extensive was the training?
In ‘28 Days Later’ I didn’t have to do much in terms of action. But in this movie I had to do two months of preparation for the action scenes. I had combat training, running. Yoga and I was three days a week on the gun range. Then I was one day a week doing just combat training with the stunt guys and then I was also doing the stunt driving twice a week. So it was a lot more intense. I was really excited to actually be working with guns because I’ve never worked with guns before. I discovered that I have a real taste for guns. Who would’ve thought?
And how was it working with Daniel Craig?
Daniel, you know, is like a really, really funny guy and he was very, very kind to me because I was really nervous, coming into a big franchise like this. It was hugely intimidating despite the fact that I’ve done other things. It was bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. But Daniel kind of took me under his wing and held my hand and said, ‘We’re gonna get through it together.’
I really loved ‘The First Grader’ and now you’re doing the Mandela movie. Can you talk about that?
Thank you so much. ‘The First Grader’ is a beautiful film and I really enjoyed working with Justin Chadwick on it. Justin became a friend and he asked me to play Winnie about two years ago. At the time they didn’t have the finances together. Then it all came together during Bond. So, I had two days off after I finished Bond and I went to South Africa and played Winnie. It’s called ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.’ I play Winnie Mandela. It’s really exciting. I’m really excited about this role. It’s the most challenging role that I’ve ever played. Winnie is a fascinating character. She’s a highly complicated character and a highly polarizing personality as well. So, it was really fascinating to get the opportunity to play her. Her life story is incredible. She’s been through so much, being tortured, being in solitary confinement, having her children taken away, and being harassed by the police all because she married a man that she fell in love with. It was an amazing experience to play that journey.
What is life like away from the camera and what’s the ideal man?
Well, I like to cook. I like to have friends and family over for dinner parties. That’s what I really enjoy.
What’s the ideal man? Wow! Someone honest, intelligent, kind, makes you laugh. Yeah, just a good human being with a good heart, generous, open to your family. I’m a real family person, so I’d have to have someone who respects family and the importance of family.
Berenice Marlohe transition from art to acting
Like Harris, Berenice Marlohe’s university studies were not in theater or performing. The daughter of a Chinese father and French mother, Marlohe studied Art in France. Therefore, The Film Strip asked Marlohe to recap the steps leading to her “Skyfall” stint. “I was struggling as an actress in France for eight years, not having auditions, not having an agent because they would just have some very stiff ideas that if you don’t look like the French famous actresses, you wouldn’t have a career. It’s very, very strange. So, I went in Los Angeles one year before ‘Skyfall’ started. I learned that they would do a James Bond film in a year. So I spent three months in Los Angeles doing my visa stuff to be able to work there. I fought really hard for this role.
You didn’t have an agent?
Yes, but I had to tell her. Hello! The only thing I asked for in eight years and she couldn’t deliver. I asked her if she knew who was casting for the Bond girl and she told me, ‘No, but find out and I’ll your stuff.’ I was like, ‘okay, you’re fired.’
How did you want to approach that role?
When I think about a Bond girl, I immediately think of a kind of strange animal, something powerful and a little bit vulnerable. So I took my inspiration from a great creature that is a mixture of dragon, snake and panther. I’m also influenced by a lot of music. I got to meet Shelly Bassey while doing some research and for me, she’s the ultimate Bond girl. She has such a huge presence and such a powerful voice, so sexy, so beautiful. So I used to listen to her a lot on the set.
From Art to Bond, what a fairytale story?
Yes. My very first passions were painting and drawing. I love to draw faces. I love to try to catch the humanity of the person, the soul of people. Then I took piano. I had a classical formation from 10 years old to 18 years old. So, I am passionate about art and creation. The acting career came later. I wasn’t sure I would want to do that because I didn’t want to become famous and lose the luxury of being anonymous. But then I fell in love with the acting craft.
Q: Do you have any brothers or sisters that are in the arts.
Marlohe: They are in the scientific branch. My brother wants to be a veterinarian. My sister is teaching. But they both love to draw, my father loves to pain. He’s a doctor but he loves to paint. My mother loves to draw. Yeah. This is what stimulates me in life.
So, is there a significant other?
I’m not dating. I’m very choosy. I’m lucky I’m not afraid to be alone. I think this is very precious to be alone because you get to know a lot about yourself.
Marie Moore is a syndicated veteran entertainment reporter. [email protected]