Naomie Harris, who is best known for her role in 28 Days Later as well as recent Bond girl in Skyfall, had some big shoes to fill in her latest film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. In the biopic, the British actress portrayed the late Nelson Mandela’s wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
To prepare for the role, Harris had done her research on the political icon’s wife and even had the opportunity to interview her and meet her. When Harris appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show, she revealed just how nervous she was about it. ”
I was absolutely terrified about meeting her because I’d read so much about her,” she said. “I didn’t know whether she was happy about me being cast or how she felt about herself being portrayed in the movie, but she was incredibly generous.”
When Harris met her again during the South African premiere of the film, she was relieved that Madikizela-Mandela enjoyed her performance. “She was actually crying and she said that was the first time she felt her story had been captured on film.”
In an interview with Mirror TV, she even revealed that when she was doing her research before meeting Winnie Mandela, it was difficult for her to get one image of her. “I read two biographies and one paints her as a kind of saintly figure and the other portrays her as a complete devil.”
After meeting her she came to an understanding of the strong woman. “I realized she’s an incredibly refined and well educated woman…she’s open, generous and warm. But she’s also a warrior so I wanted to show her heart and her compassion.” The role was her most challenging one yet, she claims, but she was able to portray the strong woman she met.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, directed by Justin Chadwick, chronicles the life of the late political icon Nelson Mandela, portrayed by Luther star Idris Elba stars as Mandela. It is nominated for three Golden Globe Awards which includes Elba for “Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama”.
You can catch the biopic in theaters now.