Naomie Harris burst onto the big screen as Bond’s Moneypenny and in Moonlight. She tells us about her meteoric rise and the dynamic venture coming to Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre
When the wrong film title was read out for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Award show, Hollywood could hardly believe the blunder that was unfolding. In uncharted scenes, the cast of La La Land – the film that was incorrectly announced as the winner of the best film award – made way for the rightful winners… the cast of Moonlight. Part of Moonlight’s incredible ensemble was Naomie Harris, a north London-born girl whose career has rocketed in recent years. Her work includes 28 Days Later, the spellbinding performance in Moonlight (which bagged her a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role), and next year she will reprise her role as Eve Moneypenny in Bond25 alongside Daniel Craig.
Naomie may now spend much of her time on the red carpets of Hollywood but this month the proud Londoner is supporting Intermission Theatre Company, which comes to Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre with its unique retelling of Shakespeare’s gripping tragedy Othello.
Together with Sir Mark Rylance, Naomie is patron of Intermission, a diverse company that has been creating reimagined Shakespeare plays since 2008 and uses drama to engage young people from inner-city communities, young offender units and prisons.
Intermission’s artistic director Darren Raymond rediscovered Shakespeare in prison and his savvy, streetwise retellings of the bard’s work have won praise from all corners of theatreland. Darren says: “Shakespeare has long been excluded from certain sections of society, but the issues he wrote about 400 years ago are just as relevant to many young people today. Showing ownership of these stories and hearing the iambic pentameter beat alongside the heart of London is so important and I hope, will be inspiring to many.”
Othello: Remixed, which opens at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre and runs 25 June to 14 July, promises to be another ground-breaking production and features professional actors from Intermission. Set in a boxing ring, Shakespeare’s tale is catapulted to the London of 2019, complete with a mash-up of slang and modern language.
Spurred on to use her platform to fight for causes she believes in it is little surprise Naomi has chosen Intermission as the theatre for her patronage…
How did you get involved with Intermission?
I went to see a production performed by their Youth Theatre, which was based on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. It was phenomenal the way they reimagined the play, helping us to see it through the eyes of these diverse young Londoners, whilst staying true to the Shakespeare plot and text. I was absolutely blown away by the talent, direction and writing, so I jumped at the opportunity to support them as a patron.
Why are these outlets such as Intermission so vital to young people in London?
I think the arts can be incredibly beneficial to young people, because they provide a platform for self-expression, an opportunity to gain insights into different perspectives and, crucially, to have a voice. Many young people feel isolated and lost in this capital. Intermission uses theatre to transform minds, behaviour and character in a safe, caring environment. The Youth Theatre provides a 10-month programme where vulnerable 16-25 year olds can explore tough issues, develop their listening and communication skills, grow in confidence and self-esteem. Through its theatre company and outreach work in schools and young offenders’ institutions, Intermission provides paid employment opportunities for young graduates who are starting out in this tough acting profession, as well as a platform for new writers and directors.
Do you think it’s important young people still engage with the classics?
If you see one of Intermission’s productions, you will understand just why Shakespeare – and the classics – still connect with today’s society. The issues he wrote about over 400 years ago remain current today: knife crime, postcode rivalry and gang culture, love, jealousy, revenge, forgiveness, identity. So, engaging with the classics can certainly inform the present. It is truly inspiring.
Will you be coming to watch Othello: Remixed at Omnibus? Subject to work commitments, I’m really hoping to come. Since becoming patron of Intermission, I try to attend every production. I love the energy, the fun – you are always in for a surprise!
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
When I was 19, I worked on a corporate training video with the actress Dawn French. She told me that I needed to develop a thick skin to survive the acting profession and she was dead right! There’s a lot of rejection you have to face in the industry. So you need to
keep picking yourself up, going for auditions and castings no matter how many times people in the industry say ‘no’.
What has been your career highlight so far? My two biggest career highlights have definitely been being nominated for an Oscar in 2017 for my role as Paula in the film Moonlight; and being awarded an OBE by the Queen in the same year for my services to the acting profession.
Where can we see you next?
My next project is a police thriller. I play a rookie cop in New Orleans who finds herself in a fight for survival after witnessing two fellow officers murder some drug dealers. I’m incredibly excited about this film, which will be released in September this year. I think it’s going to be a really important and impactful film, as well as being one hell of a rollercoaster ride to watch! And then next year, you can see me in Bond25 where I’ll be reprising my role as Moneypenny.
“The issues Shakespeare wrote about over 400 years ago remain current today: knife crime, postcode rivalry and gang culture, love, jealousy, revenge, forgiveness, identity. So, engaging with the classics can certainly inform the present. It is truly inspiring.”