Naomie Harris on modernising Bond, evolving Moneypenny and the importance of long-lasting relationships

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Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images

When you've played a character for the best part of a decade, it's likely that you'll have developed a uniquely special relationship with them. That's certainly the case for Naomie Harris, who has held the role of MI6 operative Eve Moneypenny in the Bond franchise since first filming Skyfall in 2011.

"I love playing her," she tells me, when I ask her how her character has evolved over the last 10 years. "She’s definitely matured. When you saw her first of all in Skyfall, she was naïve and innocent and trying to prove herself, and now you definitely see her in this final movie as more self-assured; she knows who she is, she knows what she’s good at and she knows her limitations as well."

It's relatable and, for a brief moment, I wonder if she might also be describing herself – or certainly the way many women develop over the course of 10 years – until she adds: "She has a massive dilemma in this movie which is between MI6 and her loyalty to Bond."

Photo credit: Universal
Photo credit: Universal

We're meeting at a lunch the actress is hosting in celebration of the women in Bond, at Scott's in Mayfair, on behalf of luxury watch brand Omega - the same day as No Time To Die's long-awaited world premiere. Naturally that means the lunch has an appropriately all-female guestlist of impressive women – from musician Lianne La Havas and model Ikram Abdi Omar, to writer Afua Hirsch, mental-health awareness advocate Poppy Jamie, photographer Lily Bertrand-Webb, and actress Kathryn Newton.

The Bond franchise is one that's all about strong, long-lasting relationships - not only with its leading cast and its loyal fans, but with its luxury brand partners, without whom the 007 universe wouldn't be quite the intoxicatingly glamorous world that it is. Omega is one such partner, having been Bond's watchmaker of choice for the past 20 years. It's also worn by numerous other characters – including Moneypenny – throughout the films.

"They’re the pillars of the brand," Harris agrees, of the luxury partners. "They go hand-in-hand with it because they add such elegance and sophistication, and timeless glamour."

Photo credit: Lily Bertrand-Webb
Photo credit: Lily Bertrand-Webb

It also provides an element of consistency; no matter who plays him, die-hard fans will know that Bond's trusty Omega Seamaster is as much a part of his character as his shaken-not-stirred martini.

"I think it’s a partnership that works both ways; everybody’s happy all round," says Harris. "It’s great to see – the actual watches have a role to play in the movie, they always do, and people love seeing that because it also gives them an opportunity to buy a part of that glamour and to feel like they’re connected to the movie, and they can be in a long-term way by buying a watch." Indeed, it takes a long-lasting relationship to convince the audience that a brand is worth buying into; that loyalty and longevity is key to consumer confidence.

Photo credit: Universal
Photo credit: Universal

Harris herself said she discovered Omega when working on Skyfall and has been an ambassador for the brand ever since; as we speak she's accessorised her white Michael Kors outfit with a sleek De Ville Ladymatic with white diamonds. She went on to wear a second Omega watch with a glittering gown for the premiere that evening, which saw the cast, crew and several hundred key workers gather at the Royal Albert Hall – finally.

Photo credit: Gareth Cattermole - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gareth Cattermole - Getty Images

It has of course been an agonisingly long wait for the latest instalment of the Bond franchise, which was delayed numerous times over the past 18 months – a wait that Harris describes as "frustrating for everybody".

"I had the knowledge – because I’ve seen it, obviously – that I know that it’s such a great movie that it’s worth the wait," she tells me. "It’s really, really good; it’s one of those epic movies that encapsulates everything and wraps everything up and leaves you feeling really satisfied."

So, I have to ask her to address the topic that everyone seems to have an opinion on; now that Craig is departing the franchise, is it time for a female 007?

"It’s not really about that for me," Harris says. "The sex is the least important thing. I think it’s about finding someone who inhabits all of the qualities of Bond and who can evolve the character in the same way that Daniel did. Daniel has really modernised Bond and that’s what we need whoever takes on that mantle to do – to do the same thing."

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