The actress who plays Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean is gorgeous in real life

If you're familiar with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, then you'll no doubt recognize voodoo enchantress Tia Dalma (the sea goddess Calypso bound in human form.) But what you might not know is that the woman beneath all the dreads and makeup is just as alluring as the character she plays. British actress Naomie Harris made her debut as Dalma in 2006's Dead Man's Chest and has since added many other huge movies to her resume, but the story of her life pre-Pirates is equally as interesting.

Harris is the daughter of a Jamaican mother and Trinidadian father, who split before she was born. "It's made me wary of commitment," the Londoner told The Telegraph. Times got tough for Harris and her mom in the years that followed, but they pulled through it together. From her humble beginnings to her arrival in Hollywood, let's take a look at the life and career of the real Calypso, the stunning Naomie Harris.

Cambridge connections

Naomie Harris made her TV debut at age 9, but she didn't attract the attention of wider audiences until her mid-20s. In 2002, she starred as Clara in the well-received British miniseries White Teeth. Dubbed an "astonishing beauty" in New York Magazine's review, Harris impressed as the daughter of a Jamaican Jehovah's Witness. She seemed completely at ease with the source material, partly because she went to school with the woman who wrote it.

The novel upon which the show was based was penned by Zadie Smith, who started at the prestigious Cambridge University the same year as Harris. "She was cool, I was nerdy," Harris said (via The Telegraph). "She was beautiful and clever and knew everyone." Harris noted that she imagined she'd be attending the sophisticated Cambridge from the movies, but the scene she encountered was much rowdier and characterized by binge-drinking students who "threw up all over the college grounds." 

She owes her career to Danny Boyle

Naomie Harris wowed with her performance in White Teeth, showcasing raw talent that director Danny Boyle was eager to refine. In 2002, Harris put in a star turn opposite Cillian Murphy in Boyle's gritty, London-set zombie apocalypse flick, 28 Days Later. "He's the reason, really, that I have the career that I've had, because he took a risk on me and gave me Selena in 28 Days Later," Harris told Digital Spy. "[He] really started my career for me, I'm very grateful to Danny Boyle."

He later cast Harris in his 2011 stage adaptation of Frankenstein, but it wasn't exactly a happy reunion. Despite her formal training at the Bristol Old Vic theater school, Harris told The Guardian that she's "not a theater animal." She added, "In every performance I felt like I was going to throw up. I don't think that level of nerves is particularly healthy."

She was the first Bond 'woman'

Harris debuted her version of the iconic Miss Moneypenny in 2012's Skyfall. The James Bond movie was a critical success, and Harris' contribution to the film cannot be overlooked. Speaking to The Telegraph, she explained how she helped redefine the Bond girl.

When Harris was asked to refer to herself as a "Bond girl" while presenting at the BAFTAs, she pushed back. "I just said, 'Well, I'm going to change that to Bond woman.'" That wasn't the first time Harris bucked tradition to stand up for her beliefs. In 2006, Michael Mann wanted her to film a sex scene in Miami Vice. Here's how that negotiation went down, according to Harris: "[Mann] called me for a meeting in his office and he was sort of embarrassed. He just said, 'So how do you feel about this nudity thing?' And I said … 'Well, I don't really want to do it, Michael.' And he went, 'Yeah. OK.'"

She shone in Moonlight

2017 was a huge year for Harris, whose performance as drug addict Paula in Moonlight kept her very busy during awards season. She was nominated at the Oscars and at the Golden Globes, and while she didn't win a trophy, having a seat at the table meant everyone knew her name. Surprisingly, Harris had almost passed on the motion picture of the year because Paula's world was so far removed from her own.

"I've always said that I wanted to portray positive images of women and positive images of black women in particular," Harris told RogerEbert.com. "I thought playing a crack addict is not exactly a progressive type of role." What she discovered while researching the role (which involved watching YouTube videos of actual crack addicts) was that she had been far too judgmental about substance abuse in the past. "I had to confront that in my journey," she said. "I had to realize that addicts aren't a subset of our society, they are any one of us."

Her manager had to protect her from sexual harassment

After a legal defense fund was opened in the United States following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, British actresses began supporting its equivalent abroad, the UK Justice and Equality Fund, which aimed to "[support] women who are victims of abuse in all industries" (via The Telegraph). Keira Knightley and Emma Thompson were among the many A-list actresses to sign an open letter, urging women to fight for equality and an end to sexual harassment. Harris joined them, though luckily for her she's never been harassed in the workplace, thanks to her manager.

Speaking to Net-A-Porter, Harris recounted an instance when she was saved from a potentially dangerous situation. "When everything was blowing up, my manager did remind me about a person who asked me, post-screening, to go up to his room and have a drink," she said. "But because my manager is amazing, she immediately stepped in and said, 'That's not happening under any circumstances.'" Sadly, not every actress has a manager willing to go that extra mile to keep them safe.

She's an Officer of the Order of the British Empire

Harris was honored by her country for services to drama when the Queen of England made her an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2017. "As a black actress from the background I came from… I think it's incredibly important," Harris told the BBC. "I'm absolutely thrilled to have my work recognized in this way." 

One person who wasn't thrilled by an OBE honor was her friend, director Danny Boyle. In 2012, he was offered a knighthood in recognition of his spectacular Olympic Games opening ceremony, but he turned it down. "We all did the show equally," he told The Telegraph. "No one person was any more important than anyone else, and that includes me." Harris slyly nodded to Boyle's OBE dismissal, stating, "I know some people turn down honours for their own reasons, but I was not going to turn down an OBE."

She wants to inspire the next generation

If there was anyone in Hollywood that still didn't know Naomie Harris' name coming into 2018, Rampage changed that. She starred opposite Dwayne Johnson in the CGI-laden monster movie. It raked in $426 million overseas, making it a financial success and cementing its leading lady as a star. So, what is Harris going to do with that star status?

Well, we won't be seeing her in 2019, but we'll be hearing her. Harris is voicing the part of Nisha in Mowgli, directed by Andy Serkis. She claimed she'd "cleared her diary" for the upcoming Bond 25 during her appearance on The Graham Norton Show (via MovieWeb), but she doesn't appear to have anything else going on in terms of acting. That doesn't mean she isn't going to be busy, however. When she spoke to Vogue in January 2018, Harris revealed that she was working with the Intermission Youth Theatre, a drama program for London's inner-city communities.