Naomie Melanie Harris (born on 6 September 1976) is an English screen actress best known for her starring role as Selena in 28 Days Later and her supporting turn as Tia Dalma in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Harris was born and raised in London, England, the daughter of sitcom writer Lisselle Kayla, a single mother who had immigrated to England from Jamaica as a child.
A television and film actress since she was nine, Harris only became well-known in 2002 with her lead performance in Danny Boyle's post-apocalyptic film 28 Days Later, opposite Cillian Murphy. In the same year, she starred in the television adaptation of Zadie Smith's White Teeth.
Since then, Harris has been cast primarily in supporting roles in big budget films, such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and Michael Mann's Miami Vice. She also did a comic turn in Michael Winterbottom's well-regarded indie ensemble piece, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, and will appear with Josh Hartnett in the 2008 release of August. She will next work on Channel 4's adaptation of the novel Poppy Shakespeare.
This must be the BIGGEST role that you have ever played?Naomie Harris
: Yes! I saw that scene with my mum - who was my voice coach for the two films. So we were together at a voice-over session when they showed the scene with a colossal Tia Dalma and we both went...oh my God! It was so exciting and they have done it so well. The special effects on this movie are incredible. It was great!
What was the hardest scene in the film for you to do?Naomie Harris
: The hardest to shoot was the growing sequence. I was tied in 40 pounds of ropes and continuity meant that the ropes couldn't be removed between takes, so for half the day I had to stay tied up. They had people who lifted me up in-between takes and then they'd lie me down on the floor. I couldn't sit because it was too awkward and the ropes were so heavy. So I would lie there for about 20 minutes until they lifted me up to go back in front of the camera. That wasn't fun! To drink I had someone with a straw. I also got rope burns.
Does your 11 year-old brother look on you any differently because of Pirates?Naomie Harris
: Now it's just the same, I'm still just his big sister who he can boss around. I also have a seven year-old sister and they are really proud which is sweet. It is nice to be part of a movie that they can go and see.
Do you get recognized more because of Pirates?Naomie Harris
: No I am able to wander the streets, go on the Tube or the bus and no-one recognizes me at all. It's brilliant. People next to me can be talking about Pirates and they don't know it's me. I have a smile. But I love it because I get to be part of such a big movie without it changing my life. It's really cool. I get the best of both worlds and I am thankful for that. I know that with Keira the paparazzi follow her around all the time....every single day, which must be hell.
What was your take on this movie?Naomie Harris
: I absolutely loved it! I think Gore had fun and went for it...like the stuff with Jack Sparrow in Davy Jones Locker. I loved the different tone, which is introducing the audience to something new. For me it is my favourite of all the Pirates films. It never stops and everyone's character goes on such a complete journey. The viewer has his or her favourite character and now everyone is satisfied.
Will this be the last time out for Tia Dalma?Naomie Harris
: I think so but I loved every minute of playing Tia Dalma. It is the first larger than life character that I have ever had the opportunity to play, the first character that I have ever been able to create from scratch, and having so much freedom. I could have gone in any direction with the character and Gore was so supportive in allowing me to do that. It was a fantastic opportunity and I loved it and I will definitely miss playing her.
How did she evolve?Naomie Harris
: When I created the character I only had a few words that had been used to describe her...that she's a gypsy queen and a mysterious voodoo lady. So it was a matter of playing with different accents and tones and imaging a back-story. So I used my imagination and presented it to Gore and he loved it and that was that.
Did you suffer to create Tia Dalma's teeth?Naomie Harris
: I had to have vegetable dye squirted in my mouth between every take because Gore wanted me to have black ink oozing from my mouth. So as well as wearing prosthetic teeth I had that. The teeth were uncomfortable because they squeeze your gums. It also makes it difficult to talk.
There appears to have great chemistry on set?Naomie Harris
: When I did Pirates 2 it was intimidating because Pirates 1 was a huge success and my first scene was with Johnny, Orlando and Keira - people I admire and respect - and I had caught a cold on the flight over and could barely speak. I was such a nervous wreck and Orlando was so sweet, he came up to me and gave my cough syrup and got me throat drops and really looked after me. That was something I will never forget. At the wrap party I got a farewell cup cake. I didn't know they were there at first. I usually get embarrassed at farewells so I ran away and then everyone came out eating these cup cakes and that was how I found out I was getting this cake.
You've had a Hollywood baptism of fire, with a series of blockbuster movies, how do you feel about it all?Naomie Harris
: I am incredibly grateful. If I had just done British films I don't think my career would have been able to sustain itself because there is not enough work in the UK. So I am grateful that America welcomed me with open arms and has given me these amazing opportunities. But I will always try to mix things up and do British and American films. I just finished August with Josh Hartnett which we filmed in New York and now I am filming Morris: A Life With Bells On in England with Derek Jacobi and Ian Hart and then I am in LA for The Night Watchman with Forest Whittaker and Keanu Reeves. That for me is what I'd like to do, making films all over the world.
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