In this BAFTA Guru interview, Moonlight actress Naomie Harris speaks on behalf of the merits of the fear and doubt that so many actors experience. And what triggers fear in this British star? First off, Naomie admits she feels scared “every single time” she lands a role. As she describes it:

“There’s that exhilaration at first of all when you think, ‘Oh my gosh! I’ve got an amazing script. Wow! I’ve got this incredible part. How exciting! And then it’s like [gasp] how am I going to find them? How am I going to do this? Where is this person? Perhaps this character won’t come to me. Like, oh my gosh, maybe I can’t act this time! I have that one every single role that I do. And I think if I didn’t then I wouldn’t be choosing the right roles because I wouldn’t be challenging myself.”

Insisting that all of her acting colleagues have expressed experiencing this same kind of apprehension, she shares this golden nugget of wisdom: 

“Actors should not feel scared for the fact that they’re scared. I think it’s a good sign. I believe that fear is a motivator. And I also think it’s a challenge to learn to use fear, and to use it as something that’s really positive for you, and works for you, and that makes you better.”

With this in mind, one of the roles that made her better was playing the crack-addicted mother, Paula, in the film Moonlight–a part that earned her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for best supporting actress. Harris’ other roles include the flirty and playful Tia Dalma in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films; the agile Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre; and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The 40-year-old actress has worked in over 70 films, and has appeared in television shows and video games as well.

Naomi purposefully tries to procure roles that take her out of her comfort zone in the pursuit of feeling challenged and finding something within that she didn’t know existed. And when working with other actors, she believes it’s key to allow yourself to be vulnerable, completely open, playful and “willing to make a fool of yourself.” She says, “I think that’s really brave, and I really admire that about acting–that people are constantly willing to go, ‘This is me.” And not to hide behind anything.” 

The self-help author Dr. Robert Anthony once said, “The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.” And if there’s anything that great works of art do, it’s break away from conformity. Likewise, great acting performances require the courage and will to take risks. Bravery is essential during auditions, while crafting a character, when working with other actors, and all the way through the production. Fear can certainly be a hindrance, but framing it as a motivator has certainly been effective for Naomie Harris. By embracing it, she’s proven to herself–and to a worldwide audience–she’s got grit and is full of surprises.

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