Naomie Harris talks about working with Director Gore Verbinksi and creating the character of Tia Dalma

Naomie Harris is so spot in the role of Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End that it's incredible to see how different she looks in person. Playing a woman with incredible power, this newcomer holds her own quite well against the likes of Jack Sparrow, Barbossa and Davey Jones.

As the age of piracy comes to a close, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) must sail off the edge of the map, navigate treachery and betrayal, and make their final alliances for one last decisive battle. Our heroes must face Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and Admiral James Norrington (Jack Davenport) in a titanic showdown that could eliminate the freedom-loving pirates from the seven seas -- forever.

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Harris recently sat down to discuss playing this character, the possibility of doing another Pirates film and what she has coming up in the future.

What do you enjoy the most about playing Tia Dalma?

Naomie Harris: I love the fact that I was able to really create a character from scratch. I wasn't confined by the limits of reality. It was limitless, what I could do with her. I could do anything of my choice and that's really fun to be able to create a character from scratch. To work with a director like Gore who allows you to do that as well. I love the fact that she's a really powerful, strong woman. I love the fact that she's very playful and sensual. I also love the fact that she's not conventionally beautiful, but there's an inner magnetism about her and an inner beauty, which I think does shine through.

Was that something that was discussed because when you're playing this role you're almost unrecognizable. Was that something you were consciously thinking of as you were playing the character? How can I bring out that inner beauty scene after scene?

Naomie Harris: I wasn't worried about it. I genuinely think anybody who is really confident in themselves is beautiful. I really do. I wasn't worried about, "I wanna make sure people see her as beautiful." It wasn't so much that. I wanted to make sure people saw all the different dimensions of her and that she was a fully rounded character and really interesting.

Do you think that At World's End is the end of the franchise? Would you be interested in coming back for a Fourth film?

Naomie Harris: I think its a very complete journey for Tia Dalma. I think that would be kind of it for her. I think there will definitely be more. There's got to be.

What kinds of challenges are there as an actress, carrying this character over from one film to the next?

Naomie Harris: For me, I've never had the experience of seeing my character up on screen and then going back into it again. Having had people's reactions to your performance and so on. Also, there's a real difference in the tone of the script from 2 to 3. In 2, Tia Dalma's much more playful and sensual because she hasn't got anything at stake. In 3, she's much more serious and determined. So kind of making that transition for the character... and she's emotional as well because her heart's involved. Making those transitions and marking those changes was definitely challenging.

Did shooting the films so close together help that process?

Naomie Harris: Not really, because the part that we shot with 2 to 3 being together, often we'd do scenes from 3 without... I hadn't at that point read the whole of 3 because the script wasn't available. That was definitely challenging being asked to do scenes and not knowing where they fit in in the script as a whole.

When you signed on to do Dead Man's Chest how much did you know about At World's End?

Naomie Harris: I only had two scenes in Pirates 2. When I signed on to do the the third, I had to do it at the same time, obviously. They said to me, "Your role does expand in 3." I didn't know in what direction. How? Or, anything until I got the script. Then I was like, "Wow, she really does go on a journey. She really does transform and have a really big part in 3." I was over the moon. I was really, really happy.

The characters in all the films are so varied. Is there a lot of discussion with Gore Verbinski about that? Or, does he just see what you bring to role?

Naomie Harris: He auditions. He sees what you bring into the audition room and ultimately, the Tia Dalma I brought into the audition room is the same Tia Dalma that was up on screen. He doesn't say, "Okay, I've hired you come up with something magic!" (Laughs) He's gotta see it when he's auditioning you first and that's why you'll get the role.

Is there a difference in terms of how you prepare to play a role like Tia Dalma, compared with how you might play Selena in 28 Days Later?

Naomie Harris: No, actually there isn't because its all about imagining, about creating a whole life for yourself, a whole world for yourself that doesn't actually exist. Taking yourself on that emotional journey, taking yourself through that narrative journey. "Where does my character go to school?" "What happened between school ages and now?" All of that information, "What does she want in each scene?" That never changes. Its all the same questions.

What's it like to see yourself, literally, larger than life on screen at the end of At World's End?

Naomie Harris: I actually saw that scene with my mother during a voice over session. My mom is the one who's my acting coach on Pirates 2 and 3. So we were in the studio together and it came on and my mom was like, "Ohhhh, my god!" We were like two kids together and we got so excited. It looks absolutely fantastic. They did such a great job with the CGI.

Why do you think these films appeal so much to people?

Naomie Harris: (Laughs) Everyone's asking me and I wish I knew, I'd bottle it and sell it. I have no idea what it is but when I ask people, most people say its Johnny Depp. I think that's probably true but I think there's more too it than that. I think its the Pirate lifestyle that appeals to people. Its the fantasy aspect of it that appeals to people. Its the fact that its a movie that all the family can go to see as well. I think there are lots of reasons. Its a magic formula that somehow manages each time to be winning.

How long were you in makeup for to play Tia Dalma?

Naomie Harris: Not long, its like 20 minutes.

Oh really? Because you look completely different.

Naomie Harris: (Laughs) I would hope so. It'd be a little scary to be going around with that kind of face and that kind of look every day.

What do you have coming up next?

Naomie Harris: I just finished filming a film called August with Josh Hartnett. Now, I fly back to back England and I do a film there. Then I come back to Los Angeles to do a film called The Night Watchman with Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker.

David Ayer is directing that?

Naomie Harris: Yeah. I play the wife of a murdered cop and Keanu is investigating the death of my murdered husband.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End sets sail in theaters May 25 from Walt Disney Pictures.

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs