Winnie was challenging for Harris

Naomie Harris has revealed that playing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was one of the "greatest challenges" of her career.

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Naomie Harris portrays Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Naomie Harris has revealed that playing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was one of the "greatest challenges" of her career.

The Skyfall actress portrays Nelson Mandela's ex-wife in Justin Chadwick's biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, opposite Idris Elba as the late South African leader.

"It means the greatest challenge of my life so far. I never thought I'd get the accent. It's such a hard character to place, so so challenging, but I'm just so relieved to have captured her and that Winnie is happy," she said.

Naomie revealed she found meeting Winnie "intimidating", saying: "I thought she was going to be so formidable but actually, she was incredibly warm and generous. I thought she would have this long laundry list of ideas.

"She just said, 'Just play me truthfully, that's all I ask. Just do your research and tell the truth', so she gave me the freedom to create her as I wanted. That's huge!"

Naomie also decided to meet people who knew Winnie so she could get a more rounded view.

"To get a more balanced perspective, you have to do wider research... in order to piece together this woman. She's very complex and she has many sides to her," she said.

All the hard work paid off, Naomie said. The 37-year-old revealed: "She feels like I did a great job. It just means the world to me

"I saw her after the South African premiere and she was in tears. She said that's the first time she felt like she was truly captured on film. She was really moved by it. She felt like it was too real and at points I was really channelling her rather than acting, so everything you could wish to hear, she said, so I was over the moon."

  • Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom opens in cinemas on January 3.