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Most of the time they say it’s better to go with your first inclination, your first thought or gut feeling. But we have a strong suspicion that actress Naomie Harris is glad she didn’t when it came to taking on her role in the Oscar-nominated film Moonlight.

In a recent interview with CBS News, the actress admitted that she some serious reservations about Paula, the mother to Chiron. And instead, Harris said she wanted to play Janelle Monaé’s character Teresa.

During her interview, she explained why. “I feel that there are enough negative portrayals of women in general, and black women in particular. I grew up with this really strong mother – really intelligent, powerful, independent – and I’ve always admired her. She was part of a group of strong, powerful women as well. I very rarely saw those women represented then. So I initially said no to the role.”

Eventually, though, she made the decision to play Paula. In preparation for the role, Harris watched YouTube videos and interviews of women addicted to drugs and she spoke to women who were in recovery at a local soup kitchen.

“I had so much judgment, actually, and I really had to work very hard to overcome that judgment. What you do as an actor is you’re inhabiting souls. And you’re asking those souls to come into your space. And you could only do that in a non-judgmental way.”

Once she got past the thoughts in her own head, she said she found she actually enjoyed the experience.

“The more layers I have to hide under as a character, the happier I am. So with Paula in Moonlight, despite the tortuous journey to get to her, once I found her was incredibly comfortable on set. Because she is so far removed. She is like the polar opposite to me.”

The work she put in to play this character has paid off. Harris is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the film.

You can watch her full interview in the video below.

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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