Naomie Harris Reveals Previous Assumptions On Addiction Nearly Stopped Her Accepting 'Moonlight' Role

'I had a lot of judgement.'

Naomie Harris has revealed she had “a lot of judgement” about addiction prior to taking on the role of a crack addict in the critically acclaimed film ‘Moonlight’.

The actress also admitted she had to be persuaded to sign up to the project, as she had a lot of reservations about portraying someone with drug problems on screen.

Naomie, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at both the Baftas and the Oscars for her role as emotionally abusive mother Paula in the film, appeared on ‘BUILD’, where she discussed her preconceptions.

Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris
Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK’s Nitya Rajan, she said: “I had reservations about playing a drug addict because I’ve always said I want to portray positive images of women in general, and black women in particular, that’s always been incredibly important to me.

“But he [director, Barry Jenkins] explained to me the story of Paula is actually based on his own mother’s story and that of Tarell Alvin McCraney, who is the original playwright who this movie is based on. Then I thought, here is someone who is going to give this character the complexity she deserves and the humanity. He changed my mind, basically.”

She continued: “To be honest, I had a lot of judgement about addiction, because I had no awareness of it. I’ve never really been an addict, expect an addict of bad reality TV and dark chocolate, that’s about it. There’s no one in my family who’s an addict, and so I really didn’t understand how someone becomes an addict.

“I had a lot of assumptions about what it meant to be an addict.”

Naomie plays drug addict Paula in the critically acclaimed 'Moonlight'
Naomie plays drug addict Paula in the critically acclaimed 'Moonlight'

Detailing the “incredible journey” she went on during her preparation for the role, Naomie admitted she felt it had made her a better person.

“It was fascinating for me, and I feel as a result of it, I have grown as a person and I have a much greater understanding of what addiction is,” she said.

“I think it’s the most research I’ve done for any part in fact, as I had to really get to grips with what causes someone to be attracted to something that’s highly destructive in their life.

“What I found is you become attracted to something like that because you’re deeply in pain and you want a way to escape your pain, and to escape yourself ultimately. That’s what drugs offer. Then once they get hold of you, they ravage and destroy you.

“That’s the journey I wanted to portray with Paula, that actually underneath the demon that is drugs, there is still this beating heart and this pained woman.”

Naomie was interviewed on 'BUILD'
Naomie was interviewed on 'BUILD'
Chris Jackson via Getty Images

Naomie also spoke about her shock about being approached to play Paula, given she is a million miles away from the character in real life.

“When this project came around, he [producer, Jeremy Kleiner] thought of me, which I still don’t really understand because I’m like Miss Clean Living, no alcohol, no smoking, and then he thought of me for a crack addict,” she explained.

The actress, who also plays Miss Moneypenny in the ‘James Bond’ franchise, also discussed her thoughts on last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, which you can watch in the video below...

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