Naomie Harris Talks Meditation, the Best Bond, and Intense Police Training

Naomie Harris at the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall's Istanbul Premiere on October 30, 2012
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Naomie Harris, starring as Moneypenny in the new Bond films, and a rookie in the cop thriller Black and Blue, talks about the benefits of sensory deprivation, the best 007, and her extensive police training.

But first, the basics:

Age: 43

Hometown: London

Top 5 Bond Villains:

  1. Jaws
  2. May Day
  3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld
  4. Baron Samedi
  5. Raoul Silva

Men’s Journal: In Black and Blue, you play a rookie cop among corrupt officers who murder someone while wearing body cams. That’s a timely topic.

Naomie Harris: It’s exploring the relationship between the community and the police force—a fractured relationship that has real trust issues at the moment. The movie felt incredibly important to me because it sheds light on that situation, offers some solutions, and has a powerful inspirational message.

Did you train with real police officers for the role?

I felt comfortable already because I did a film called Miami Vice with Michael Mann 20 years ago, for which I spent three months training with undercover agents. I had a boxing teacher and a firearms teacher, and I went out with the local police force. We went to practice-raid houses where real officers train, where people would suddenly jump out at you, and you’d have to know who you’re supposed to save and who you’re supposed to shoot.

That sounds intense.

I also went out on a drug raid, and the police actually got the wrong person. Which was awkward.

You star as Moneypenny in Skyfall and Spectre. Do you have a favorite Bond?

Daniel Craig.

I’M VERY PERFECTIONIST, VERY TYPE A. SO I’M ALWAYS LIKE, MY INBOX HAS TO BE COMPLETELY TIDY.

You don’t have to say that just because he’s Bond in the films you’ve done.

Daniel is my favorite Bond because I totally believe he’s someone who is a killer for a living, but I also see that he is damaged and vulnerable and capable of falling in love. He has a humanity and as well has this incredible wit and intellect.

You’re the first black actress to play Moneypenny. How did you hope to modernize the role and make it your own?

I wanted her to be fierce and strong and intelligent and capable. I love her doing all the work out in the field and going toe-to-toe with Bond. I really don’t want her to be seen as just the secretary anymore. She is M’s right-hand person.

In Moonlight, meanwhile, you were nominated for an Oscar for your role as an abusive drug addict. Is it weird to just go home for dinner like normal after that?

Moonlight was a really rare way of making a film, because we shot it in three days. So I was able to fully inhabit the character, and I didn’t actually want to release her at the end of the day. At the end, I felt I’d really exorcized her completely out of me, so I was able to just walk away from the film knowing she’s complete and not taking any of her with me.

After playing these intense characters, how do you decompress?

I love flotation tanks.

What’s the deal with those?

The idea is no stimulation and also the sense of being back in the womb. I don’t know how many tons of Epsom salts are in the water, but you’re completely weightless and it’s the same temperature as your body. It’s a really nurturing, healing experience.

It sounds like you’re into wellness.

My mom is an energy healer, and I meditate twice a day. I also go to a place in India for three weeks every year, where I switch off my phone and do Ayurvedic treatments and fasting.

Three weeks without a phone?

You have to really train yourself so that when you get back, you don’t immediately go into “Oh my God, now my inbox is full of thousands of emails!” and that sense of being overwhelmed. That’s what I did the first time: go straight back into stress mode. I’m very perfectionist, very type A. So I’m always like, my inbox has to be completely tidy.

So how do you relax when you have a million emails?

You have to gently ease yourself back in by answering just a couple a day and repeating to yourself, “Eventually, it’s all going to get done.”

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