Naomie Harris interview: The James Bond star on playing Winnie Mandela, fitting in at Cambridge and singalong Sound of Music nights

The British actress is best known for playing Moneypenny in the most recent Bond film, 'Skyfall', and Winnie Mandela in 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'

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The Independent Culture

So who's your favourite James Bond?

Of course it's got to be Daniel. I really do think he's amazing. To come in and to reinvent the whole way that we see Bond, to add a modern twist, and to make us fall in love with the character in a different way is, I think, a huge achievement and he deserves credit for that. He is the ultimate Bond.

I heard you started the rumour that Idris Elba was next in line to play 007...

No, that is not true! Do you know what happened? A journalist said to me, 'You've just finished working with Idris Elba on Mandela, do you think he'd make a great Bond?' And I said, 'Yeah, absolutely, I think he would.' And then the headline is 'Naomie says Idris Elba to be next Bond'.

What do you think about all the fuss over having a black Bond?

I hope we get to the point where we're not saying, 'are we going to have a black Bond?' That's not the point. The point is to have somebody who fills the shoes of Bond in the way they should be filled. He's this iconic character and whoever fits, whatever colour they are, it doesn't matter. It's about their characteristics, their charisma, their humour and their physicality as well – to be able to perform all those stunts. So whoever that is, I say good luck to them.

You've spoken before about coming from a working-class background and struggling to fit in at Cambridge. What led you to apply?

I had this incredible teacher called Mr Murdoch who I will forever be indebted to. He took me under his wing and mentored me in this incredible way. It really taught me about the power of teachers. They can change the direction of a child's life and they deserve so much more credit than they get.

What's your favourite film?

I think, embarrassingly, it would be The Sound of Music. I'm obsessed with musicals. I've watched it about 30 times. In fact, there was a singalong recently in Leicester Square and I was so tempted to go...

I couldn't think of anything worse!

I won't have to fight you for tickets, then.

They're all yours. Have you ever done any musical theatre?

No, I have the world's most awful voice. It's such a shame because if I could sing, I would be doing musicals without a doubt. I just love them. But I can't, and I can't dance. So there's no hope for me.

What's at the top of your CV?

I'm really proud of playing Winnie Mandela and of the movie as a whole. I feel that was the best work that I've done so far. I really am very proud of representing this extraordinary moment in history. To go back to South Africa for the premiere and to turn around at the end and see them all in tears and so thankful to us for having represented so faithfully their experiences, that was a real honour.

What would you have done if you hadn't become an actress?

I never had a plan B. I just went gung-ho into acting. I started when I was nine, so I never experienced any such thing as unemployment. I actually got everything that I went up for as a child – I never experienced rejection. I just assumed that the adult profession would be the same. I never had a back-up plan, but if there were anything I would do, I would write or be an architect.

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Biography

Naomie Harris, 38, is a British actress, best known for playing Moneypenny in the most recent Bond film, ‘Skyfall’, and Winnie Mandela in ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’. Raised in London, she won a place at Cambridge before continuing with her career in acting. She is currently promoting Meerkat Movies, 2 for 1 cinema tickets every Tuesday or Wednesday, available through comparethemarket.com.

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