Naomie Harris felt more than a desire to bring to life Alicia West in Deon Taylor‘s Black and Blue, she felt a responsibility. West is a rookie officer and military veteran who accidentally witnesses the murder of a criminal informant, and becomes the target herself when the crooked detectives behind the killing realize she caught the brutal incident on her body camera.
Taylor tells a balanced story highlighting the real-life issues affecting the Black community in the United States, where it’s sadly no longer surprising when the death of an innocent person at the hands of those meant to serve and protect. But Black and Blue isn’t pointing the finger at any particular community, instead showing that there are good and bad individuals with and without badges.
“Alicia West was such a great and amazing role. I hope when everyone sees it they’ll know why I couldn’t say no to playing her,” Harris tells EW. “Deon had the opportunity to do a film that bashes all white police officers but it isn’t about that at all and he always says that. It’s really about humanity and it comes down to doing the right thing, and that’s irrespective of skin color or age or any of these things.”
West is the strong female role model that the world needs right now, and Tyrese Gibson‘s Mouse is the man who isn’t afraid to take a beating to protect her. Even though it had been years since Mouse and West ran around that same neighborhood as kids, it’s impactful to see how far he is willing to go to ensure the truth was exposed.
“What’s so special about this film is that there are so many subversions of normal themes in movies,” the James Bond star explains. “In Black and Blue, you see Alicia as the hero. She’s the capable one: firing the weapons and protecting the guy. It takes a very strong man who is centered in his masculinity to be able to take on a role like that. Tyrese never blinked an eyelid. He said, ‘You’re the one that’s able to handle this business and I’m not. I am going to be protected by you.’
I think that really shows how ego-less he is and how brave he is, as well.”
The connection between West and Mouse is palpable, even though there is no romance at the center of the action drama. Harris understands why fans were hoping there would be more between the characters but admits it would’ve detracted from the film’s important message.
“I think people pick up on that chemistry on-screen because we had it in real life too,” she says. “People have told me they wanted there to have been more between the characters but I think that would’ve detracted from the story. Their love was never about that, they had this deep soul connection. I like that this is a pure relationship that’s going to lead to something solid and long-lasting.”
Beyond the main issues presented in Black and Blue, there’s a more subtle message about staying true to yourself and never forgetting where you come from. There are moments when West is looking into the eyes of the little girls living in the rundown community that she once did, and it’s evident that she’s fighting for their future.
“The way Alicia is really touched me on a human level. I truly believe it’s important that we be an inspiration to other people in the communities that we come from—never forgetting your roots.
We have that responsibility to be a torchbearer for the next generation, to inspire them and help them so their past won’t be as bad as it was for you. And I think that’s what Alicia is all about, that’s why the decision to do the right thing is much easier for her because she is still so connected to her roots. She remembers and understands where she came from and genuinely wants to make a difference. I think that’s what makes her so special.”
Black and Blue is currently in theaters.