Teetotaller Naomie Harris: Addiction role was one of my most rewarding

Updated: 

Moonlight star Naomie Harris has described playing a mother battling drug addiction as one of the most "rewarding projects I have ever worked on".

The London-born actor, who describes herself as a teetotaller, plays troubled mother in Paula in the film, which has just been nominated for a number of Golden Globes.

After securing a nomination for best supporting actress, Naomie told the Press Association: "Moonlight was definitely challenging because I shot it over three days and I am a teetotaller - I don't drink alcohol or smoke and I have had no real understanding of addiction.

Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris (Jordan Strauss/AP)

"So going from me to Paula was a real leap and it was a lot of hard work to really connect with and understand her.

"But it was definitely one of the most rewarding projects that I've ever worked on. She is so different form me that it's something I really grew as a result of."

Filmed in Florida and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight follows the life of Chiron (Naomie's son) in three stages.

Starting from a difficult childhood, he soon becomes embroiled in drug-dealing and violence, while struggling with the emotional turmoil of his relationship with his mother and his sexuality.

Explaining that the film's focus on diversity provides an "antidote to divisive politics", Naomie, 40, said: "The movie is so beautiful and it genuinely has the power to really change the way people feel about and look at life and each other. I think more than ever right now that's what we need.

"It connects with all of us, our need for love, and there is something so powerful about that because of the way it's directed.

Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris (Ian West/PA)

"There is so much space and silence that it really manages to get under people's skin. I've never been in a movie that connects in that way with people.

"Paula is very rooted in real life - she's on every street corner, she is people suffering from addiction and struggling with life, trying to raise children in very difficult circumstances."

The Golden Globes will take place a month before the Academy Awards, which this year faced heavy criticism for lacking in diversity, prompting the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign.

Moonlight
Moonlight (A24)

But Naomie, whose parents moved to the UK from Jamaica and Trinidad, revealed she is hopeful the 2017 line-up will demonstrate a wider range of winners.

"This year is incredibly diverse and that represents movies as a whole," she said.

"Moonlight demonstrates that you can make a movie about communities that are ignored and that there is, in fact, an audience for them.

"I think it's wonderful that the industry is now catering for a much wider section of society and it's really important that people see themselves reflected on screen, rather than ignored or excluded from society.

Naomie Harris
Moonlight (A24)

"I don't think this is a response to what happened last year, but I do think that it's a wonderful change."

Asked whether she had her sights set on an award herself, she said: "We are taking each day as it comes and the main thing is about being grateful for what is now.

"It's so easy to keep thinking 'What's next?', but this is such a huge achievement for all of us and such a great moment in my career and I just really want to relish that."

Moonlight
Moonlight (A24)

The Spectre star is currently rounding off her busy year with publicity for Collateral Beauty, a heart-wrenching film about grief and loss and starring Will Smith, Kate Winslet, and Dame Helen Mirren.

Describing Will as "fun and charismatic" to work with, she said she is looking forward to a Christmas break back home before returning to California for the Golden Globes on January 8.