English actress Naomie Harris rose to prominence in 2002 with the movie 28 Days Later and the television adaptation of the acclaimed novel White Teeth. She grew up an avid watcher of James Bond films and debuted as Eve Moneypenny in 2012’s Skyfall, starring as an active agent out in the field. She reprises the role in Spectre…
Was it much easier going back for Spectre than it was joining Skyfall?
It was a lot easier because you are going into the same team. Obviously, I have worked with Sam before and I have worked with the make up team before so it is like going back to an old family. There is something comforting about it and reassuring and it feels like all those initial concerns and worries that emerged when you were doing the first one are much, much lessened. You know what to expect.
Your Moneypenny is a very proactive character. Would you have been interested in the part had she been more passive, as she was in the past?
To be totally honest, I would definitely have had some soul-searching moments when presented with a role in Bond that wasn’t the kind of badass feminist that Eve is. But it would have been very difficult because it was Bond after all and I grew up watching Bond. I have always loved Bond so I think I might have done it anyway. I don’t know what solution I would have come up with but I am definitely very happy with the character, and I love the fact that Eve is much more of an equal to Bond and that he respects her and that they both tease each other. They see one another as someone they can lean on. They trust each other’s expertise. Bond chooses Eve as the only person that he can trust. Out of everyone that he works with, he reveals the true nature of his mission to her, and tells her what is really happening because he genuinely relies on her. He trusts her and believes in her capabilities. I definitely prefer that to a role where I didn’t have so much to do.
Moneypenny is compromising her career by helping Bond, right?
Yes, she has to reveal information and to really question where her loyalties lie. It just shows how much Bond as a character is trusted and loved and respected by those who he works with. Everyone, Q, Moneypenny and Tanner — we all go out on a limb for him. Ultimately, even M goes out on a limb for Bond and is willing to trust him and the rogue mission that he is on.
Your character’s introduction in this story is very different from her introduction in Skyfall…
We are introduced to her first in her office. Bond is just arriving back from his rogue mission where he has kind of blown up half of Mexico City and no one understands why. He has been called into M’s office for a telling-off and the whole of MI6 are nonplussed as to what is going on and they have all kinds of theories. They think he has lost his mind and Eve is the only one who suspects he is onto something and that he is on some kind of mission that he can’t reveal the true nature of.
How much did you enjoy shooting your scenes in Moneypenny’s apartment? Sam Mendes has given your character so much added detail in these two films…
It is really cool because Sam asked me how I saw her home. I said that I thought she would be very well travelled and well read, so there would be lots of books around the place. I didn’t think she would be particularly interested in design or would be all that feminine in her choices. She is quite masculine in her tastes; not everything matches in her home. It is almost like a collection of bodged things that she has collected from her travels all over the world. Then our designer came up with a fantastic set. I walked onto the set and I was just amazed because it was exactly as I had imagined her home to be. There was this heart and warmth and soul to it. It had this masculinity to it as well as a femininity. It was a true reflection of Eve’s spirit.
And how’s your relationship with Daniel; it must be very important to get that chemistry and level of trust?
You need an actor who is open and generous and willing to forgive so that you can play off them and Daniel is very good at that. He is very playful, actually. He brings a lightness to set and lifts the mood on set and that makes it really easy to play opposite him. You feel safe that you are able to experiment and have fun with the characters as well, when you want to. That definitely feeds into the relationship you see on screen because if I wasn’t comfortable with him, or vice versa, then I think it would definitely show. An important part of the historic relationship between Bond and Moneypenny is trust, and there is this chemistry they have as well.
In Spectre there is a sense that Bond is especially driven, dynamic and very in control. Do you agree?
I definitely think that is true and that is what Sam [Mendes] wanted. Bond drives this movie. He is in every scene. At the beginning, he is on a mission of his own and he is haunted by the memory of [Judi Dench’s] M. He wants to fulfil her dying wish, which is to solve this big trouble that she got the tail end of but hadn’t really managed to unravel. He is determined that he is going to do that for her. He is doing that completely alone and then the whole thing unravels. The story is also about his past and that fuels it further. It becomes even more personal to him. He has to achieve this on his own because, ultimately, it turns out that everything boils down to him. It is to do with Oberhauser’s hatred of him. So many people close to Bond have died. He discovers that it’s definitely a personal mission and that is what fuels his drive and passion to complete it.
What would be some of your fondest memories of making the film?
My fondest memories are working with Sam. He is a phenomenal director. He makes you feel completely supported and you completely trust that he knows exactly what is going on with the film. He knows exactly where your character should be, so you can relax. But he also instils this sense that he completely trusts you to get there and to do your job. You always feel safe in his hands. He also has a great sense of humour and he always keeps it very light on set. I just love working with him, so that is one of the memories that I will definitely take way. Also, shooting at night. There was a lot of shooting at night with Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear and me staying up until four in the morning. We would play these silly, childish games to keep awake. I will remember that as well. I loved the camaraderie with those two and their great sense of humour. It was really nice to have that with them.
How much did you enjoy shooting out on location in London?
It is always amazing to be filming in London and to have iconic locations shut down for the film. That is really incredible but I am constantly blown away by how amazing our set designer, Dennis [Gassner] really is. He does such a phenomenal job. For instance, it wasn’t a set that I filmed on but it was a set that I saw — the recreation of Westminster Bridge at Pinewood Studios. The level of detail and its breadth was just extraordinary. His work blows me away the most and excites me the most. I love his artistry.
007’s Latest Mission Available on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital March 9