Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, the sexy London-bred stars of Mandela: Walk to Freedom, get personal about tackling their roles as South Africa’s most iconic couple.
The Black experience is divided into subsets by oceans, cultures and even social classes. Still, there is one thing that brings us together: entertainment. Artistic expression continues to be a means of unifying our masses, and few projects speak more to this phenomenon than Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The indie film is about legendary South African anti-apartheid crusader, Nelson Mandela. Starring British actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, the movie is receiving a wide release in the United States. Talk about going global.
“At first I wasn’t sure that the role was for me,” offers Elba. “I expected that they’d want an older actor, someone more distinguished, like Denzel Washington. Plus, I was really stuck on the way Mandela looks and the way I Iook.” The 41-year-old isn’t the only one double-checking his image; with blockbusters from Thor to Ghost Rider on his resume, the international star, who earned his first bits of recognition stateside portraying Stringer Bell on HBO’s The Wire, has become somewhat of a global heartthrob over the last decade. Sexy Hollywood actor isn’t a label that comes to mind when you utter the name Nelson Mandela, or his ex-wife Winnie for that matter.
But that didn’t stop the film’s producers from casting Naomie Harris as the formidable female revolutionist. “I worked with the production team on another small film and they offered me the role and I thought, ‘fantastic,’” recalls Harris, 37. Best known on this side of the pond for her performance as iconic Bond girl Moneypenny in Skyfall, the last 007 flick, the UK-raised actress cops to being aware of only one fact about Winnie Mandela when she accepted her role: “She was Nelson Mandela’s wife.”
Harris quickly extinguished her ignorance. “I felt more like a researcher than an actor at one point.” She read biographies, watched documentaries and interviewed people who knew Winnie. “But then I interviewed her and that’s when everything really gelled for me.”
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