My best teacher - Naomie Harris

8th April 2011 at 01:00
An after-school theatre club was a haven from bullying for the Frankenstein actor

At home, education was viewed as being really important. My mum always said that life is about having choices, and an education enables you to have more choice in what you do with your life. So I saw it as an important step to get to wherever I wanted to go.

When I decided that I wasn't going to go to university my mum was fine with it, but she was adamant that I should do my A-levels. Her reasoning was that if I wanted to do a degree later in life, they would be a gateway for me to do so.

I was a good student. I was hungry for knowledge and worked very hard. I loved English and I hated anything to do with science or maths - I was very much the creative mind, not the factual mind at all.

I've always wanted to be an actor so I went to the Anna Scher Theatre School, where I attended an after-school club. I went there once or twice a week while I was at St Marylebone School for Girls in west London.

I have such fond memories of going to that club. I loved Anna Scher. She was an incredibly inspirational teacher. But it wasn't just about acting: it was also about personal development. Lots of people were there with no intention of being actors, but they were learning self-confidence. She would also do lessons about morality, as well as the "word of the week", which she would define and we would all learn about it.

I was bullied at St Marylebone, so secondary school wasn't the greatest experience. I coped by throwing myself into my work. I began to see education as a route out and thought, "I'm not having a good time now, but I'm going to get through this by getting my head down and just working. I'll do the best that I can and then I'll be able to go and do what I want."

The Anna Scher after-school club was also an escape. Recently I was interviewed about her life for a documentary and I burst into tears during it because I hadn't realised how much of a sanctuary it had been. It was the one place where I wasn't being bullied or judged. I was with like-minded people and it was a supportive and caring environment. And I was doing something that I was really passionate about.

I did my A-levels at Woodhouse College in north London. It was here that I met Mr Murdoch, my sociology teacher, and he was the reason that I ended up going to Cambridge University. He was amazingly inspiring and made the subject come to life. Mr Murdoch made education relevant to the "now" - the world that we live in. He made it really exciting. I had never experienced education like that before and I fell in love with the subject so much that I decided to study it at university. I feel that I owe a lot to him.

When I went to university, students from ethnic backgrounds were being encouraged to go to Oxbridge, which I feel is incredibly important. I'm so glad that I went to Cambridge. Sometimes as an actor you feel that you're not being treated seriously and it's great to know that I got my degree as well.

Naomie Harris is appearing in 'Frankenstein' at the National Theatre until 2 May. She also stars in the film 'The First Grader', which will be released in the UK later this year. She was talking to Anne Joseph.

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