Black and Blue, which premieres in October, tells the story of a rookie cop named Alicia (Naomie Harris) who goes into hiding after uncovering a fellow officer’s (Frank Grillo) misdeeds. Harris has been on the rise since her well-deserved Oscar nomination for Moonlight, and it seems she’s chosen another complicated role here.
The actress herself went into detail about why Black and Blue was the right choice for her at a recent press conference for the film. While she credited the energy of director Deon Taylor and the opportunity to work alongside the likes of actors like Tyrese Gibson, the most important element for her came down to Peter A. Dowling’s script.
“Everything for me is always about the script,” Harris explained. “Does it challenge me in a completely different way? Is it a film that impactful? Is it going to represent women, and black women in particular, in a different light?” Black and Blue, in her estimation, does all of those things. “I think it's a really powerful, impactful, incredibly important movie,” the actress added. “I think it's very relevant and timely – that we need a movie like this right now.” After all, relationships between police and their communities have been breaking down on a very public stage since Ferguson.
“I think that the dissemination of clips of police brutality that have been caught on cameras, particularly on phones, have really made that relationship even more difficult,” Harris went on. “And we need a way out of that kind of corrupt, abusive relationship.” Black and Blue seeks to offer a solution to that problem, or at least open a dialogue that will lead to one. “It offers the possibility of rebalancing that relationship between the community and the police; making it more transparent,” she said. Indeed, the relationship between Alicia and Mouse (Tyrese Gibson) represents what can be achieved when cops work on behalf of their community and that community is able to trust them in turn, or so it would seem from the trailer.
In order to better prepare for a role of such significance, Harris did a lot of research on police work. She was aided in this by her previous role on Miami Vice, for which she had gone undercover. “I was out with the police, doing raids,” Harris shared. “I actually did a real drug sting; it was really terrifying. We got the wrong guy.”
More recently, she watched police interviews on YouTube, which she said were “mainly women cops, and they were following them around and just showing their day.” But even more so than real-life accounts, she found she had to exercise her imagination and empathy in equal measure. “What would it be like if this was my life, and I was a cop? I'm putting myself in that situation.”
Those attempts at extrapolating her own actions were what made her respect her character so much. In the face of police corruption and brutality, Alicia has the strength to be the change even if she has to do it alone. “Absolutely everything she puts on the line, because she says, ‘This is wrong, and I'm going to draw the line here,’” the actress declared. “I think that's what we all need to do. If we all did that in our own small way, that's how change happens.”
Audiences will see how taking a stand works out for Alicia when Black and Blue arrives this fall, but it’s nearly impossible not to be inspired by Naomie Harris’ passion in the meantime.