Naomie Harris: Winne Mandela was hardest role of my career

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is based on South African President Nelson Mandela's autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. Idris Elba (Prometheus) stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris (Skyfall) stars as Winnie Mandela, with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing.
January 7th, 2014

Naomie Harris admits playing Winnie Mandela was ''the hardest role'' she's ever played in her career.

The 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' actress struggled to portray the former wife of the late Nelson Mandela - who passed away last month - because of her controversial ways.

She said: ''I was terrified at the mountain I had to climb to play this woman and discover who she is. It's definitely the hardest role I've ever played in my career.''

However, the 37-year-old star insists meeting her alter-ego in person helped her get into the role more.

Speaking to Empire magazine, she explained: ''It helped me enormously [meeting her]. I asked her how she wanted to be portrayed and I fully expected her to say, 'I want to be portrayed as a saint, as Mother Africa.' But she didn't. She said, 'You do your research, and all I ask is that you play me truthfully.'

''That was really liberating, because suddenly I felt ownership of all that material. I felt free as well. Our producers had very strong views about who Winnie is and how she should be portrayed, and I was influenced by that. But having her say to me, 'Be free, just tell the truth,' that gave me such a sense of liberation. I didn't feel influenced by anyone else's [opinion] at all after that. I felt I could really find her voice myself.''