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Actress Naomie Harris and director Barry Jenkins on humanity of "Moonlight"

"Moonlight" actress and director
"Moonlight" actress and director 05:28

For British actress Naomie Harris, it was the “humanity” of the new film, “Moonlight,” that drew her to the project.

“It strips away all these labels that society wants to put on us, as black or gay, or what have you, and just says fundamentally we’re all the same,” Harris said Friday on “CBS This Morning.” “We’re all searching for the same things – love and connection.”

Formerly known as Eve Moneypenny in James Bond films “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” or Winnie Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” Harris now stars as a drug-addicted single mom in Miami whose son, Chiron’s coming-of-age story is told in three chapters. Shot in three days, she said it was one of the most difficult roles she’s played.

“Precisely because I have no experience of any form of addiction, so I was confused as to how I was going to get from me to her. It just seemed like a massive leap,” Harris said.

Actress Naomie Harris and director Barry Jenkins CBS News

But, with research and the help of one addict who shared her journey with Harris, the actress was able to delve into her character.

Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” was conceived after he read MacArthur Fellow Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.”

“It just reminded me so much of my childhood,” Jenkins said on “CBS This Morning.”

The film is semi-biographical, Jenkins said, one that is shared between himself and McCraney, both born in Miami. The character Chiron, who explores his sexuality and identity, is played by three different actors, starting with Alex Hibbert as the young Chiron, Ashton Sanders as teen Chiron and Trevante Rhodes as adult Chiron.


“I think in the specificity of the world that Tarell and I are from, we just thought if we’re honest about who this person is and the world he lives in, people will respond to the honesty. And they have been,” Jenkins said. “And I wanted to show how the world was changing these young men from our community, and so we wanted to show, 10 years later, he’s become a completely different person. But the actors all have the same feeling in their eyes, and people like sort of just get into the soul of the character.”

For Jenkins, directing the movie became personal and painful when Harris played her role.

“Because she was basically portraying my mom, like in flesh and blood, and so it was like a live therapy session that I was directing but also participating in. So it was really intense. And she went to these places that I think we had to go in order to reconcile the character,” Jenkins said.

Now the film is garnering awards buzz, with the New York Times asking, “Is this the year’s best movie?” and the Wall Street Journal calling it “a masterpiece.” Jenkins welcomes it.

“I think the more people talk about the film, the more someone who needs to hear about it, or wants to hear about it, or wants to see themselves represented, is likely to find the film,” he said. “So that’s great.”

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