Calypso is one of the most fearsome villains (or should that be antiheroes?) in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, communicating more evil and intrigue under a head full of dreadlocks than the great Bill Nighy managed with a beard made of octopus. The films’ mythology positions her as a heathen goddess fueled by rage, but Calypso is actually able to take many forms. Her most memorable, however, sees Calypso presented in the body of voodoo mystic Tia Dalma.
Although she’s not quite a goddess anymore, Calypso is still attractive, but her anger has clearly affected her externally as much as internally. In reality, however, the actress who portrays Calypso/Tia in the Pirates of the Caribbean has also taken the form of a cop, a doctor, and a Bond girl. The spurned, vengeance-seeking goddess is also drop-dead gorgeous in her actual, IRL human form, as British actress Naomie Harris — whose parents, coincidentally, are originally from Trinidad and Jamaica (via Mirror).
Naomie Harris put herself through drama school
Most actors who make it in the business young simply take their success and run with it, particularly nowadays in the era of YouTube and TikTok celebs. Harris wanted to perfect her craft so, in spite of the fact she was technically a working actor since the age of nine, the London-born star decided to put herself through drama school. She described the decision, in an interview with Express, as the bravest thing she’s ever done, admitting, “I couldn’t get any funding as I’d already been to university but I didn’t listen to anybody who said I couldn’t do it.”
It took 250 letters to local charities and a sizable loan from her uncle, which was all the money she had to her name. “I didn’t know how I was going to last the two years or pay the fees and I think that is incredibly brave now I look back at it,” Harris recalled. Thankfully, everything worked out, because the charities she had appealed to helped support her studies. Looking back, the actress realizes, “It was just fate and being fearless, I managed to get through.”
Early success stonewalled Naomie Harris later in life
Although her big breakout moment was in 2002 zombie movie 28 Days Later, Harris has actually been a working actress since the eighties, when she starred on British TV show Simon and the Witch. As the actress admitted to The Independent, her can-do attitude was really a detriment later in life. “I got every single role I ever went up for as a kid. I never heard no, which actually set me up quite badly for the adult acting profession,” she admitted.
As the now prolific performer recalled, “I spent the first year outside of drama school completely unemployed, completely unable to get any work. It was one of the most depressing periods of my life.” Happily, now that she’s in her forties, roles such as that of the drug-addicted mother in Moonlight or the rookie cop in Black and Blue proliferate. Harris is tired of people asking how she still has a career at her age, though, arguing, “This is the best point of my career ever. I’m getting the most interesting roles.“
Naomie Harris will never take her body for granted
The British actress was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 11 and soon needed an operation as the disease grew quite severe in her teens. “Doctors inserted a metal rod down my spine. I spent a month in the hospital recovering and had to learn how to walk again. It was really traumatic,” Harris told Shape. Considering her body is required for her job, particularly in action-packed roles like Black and Blue or opposite James Bond himself, she refuses to take her good health for granted.
Harris works out, meditates, eats well, and doesn’t drink alcohol or coffee. “I don’t abuse my body. Health is the greatest thing you can have,” she explained of her approach. The recovery from her scoliosis operation was so intense that Harris found it hard to be active again. However, “When I started making films that required me to be physically active, I realized that my body was capable of doing a lot more than I thought it was.” These days, she relishes a challenge.
Positively representing Black women is important to Naomie Harris
Harris chooses her roles wisely, admitting to Net-a-Porter that she originally judged her character Paula, in Moonlight, as a bad mother. In the end, though, she found the experience freeing. As the London-born star explained, “Acting in general is liberating. I get to shout and scream. I don’t really do anger in everyday life. I’m not a shouter. But everyone gets angry. I suppress. And that’s really unhealthy. That’s why acting has always been this cathartic exercise for me. It’s an environment where you’re allowed to be out of control, and I love that. I need that. It’s my therapy.”
Although she’s hesitant to describe herself as a role model, Harris accepts that women look up to her whether she likes it or not. She hopes to make them proud, telling Shape how she strives, in her work, to “Present positive images of being a woman, especially a woman of color. That’s so important to me.” Harris advised how she’s, “Stayed away from stereotypical roles because I don’t want to reinforce them.” As she sees it, “It’s such a privilege to be in the public eye, and I try to do as much good as I can.”
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