No Time To Die actress Lashana Lynch on playing new agent Nomi in the 25th Bond film, working with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and overcoming barriers to Black actresses in Hollywood
It’s nearly here. Possibly the most eagerly-anticipated film ever – the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die (AKA Daniel Craig’s final hurrah as MI6 agent Bond). Released 12th November, Lashana Lynch plays 00 agent Nomi (you might recognise her from Captain Marvel – she played pilot Maria Rambeau) and we’re expecting big things, huge. Here, she fills us in on joining the Bond franchise and what the role entails.
Congratulations on No Time To Die! I read you were a Bond fan as a kid, watching with your dad?
Yeah, but I was a newly-hatched egg when that happened. It’s in my psyche somewhere in the back of my brain, so because of that I had to do my research. I went back to the beginning to Dr. No and watched all of them back-to-back while filming. It was necessary – I wanted to understand the world and Bond more.
Did you notice anything different the second time around, with an adult lense?
It’s going to sound like a corny answer, but just how great they started! Dr. No is just a brilliant start for a franchise – if I was starting a franchise and Dr. No was the beginning in 2020 I’d feel bleeding fantastic! They’ve been strong since the beginning and evolved through drama, through the directors they choose, through representation of women and people of colour. They’ve encapsulated a lot within these 24 movies – now 25 – so I feel really proud to be joining at this time.
Fans of Bond are really big fans, so taking on this role is a pretty big deal…
Well, what’s great about joining a franchise as a new character is nobody can tell you what to do. They’ve literally created this character and everyone was so supportive of me being in this collaborative environment that they’ve produced so well. It felt so great, almost like an indie at times. There’s no rule book and I loved that.
Which Bond film is your favourite?
Dr. No. The villain is so peculiar and wonderful and introduced me to what villains can be like outside of superhero movies. Daniel is my favourite Bond – I’ve not been silent about that! – and when Casino Royale came out I was just so bulldozed by that opening sequence. It was so different to anything I’d seen in the Bond movies before. It made me really excited for what he was bringing to it.
What can you tell us about filming? It sounds like there was a lot of physical training involved?
A small bit, yeah! I got introduced to what they hoped Nomi would do during the audition process and had a stunt audition. The sequences they gave me were proper ninja-style from the beginning, so when I actually got the role and started training with the stunt team I joked, saying, ‘Can you make me a ninja?’. They were like – very seriously – ‘Yes’. And they did! Now I’ve certified as a ninja, got the medal, the chain, the watch…everything [laughs]. I feel really proud of the physical work we did in the film, it was really hard but worth it in the end.
What did you want to bring to the role?
I always try my best to create someone who is authentic and relatable even if they’re someone on the wrong side of the tracks. Because I want the audience to be able to cheer for her. And I want them to support her and understand her motives. And even though I hope young people will be inspired and women will be empowered and men will learn – or re-learn – about our power, I’m more interested in what people have to say on social media. Or when they meet me or see me on the street – I’m interested in their reaction when they see it. There’s a lot for her to bring so there will be a lot for them to take.
It will be interesting to see what resonates…
For sure, because I can think of ten things that stand out. They might think of one small thing I didn’t even think would be as significant as it was. I think that might come from young people actually, and definitely young black women who are now getting the chance to see themselves represented on screen.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s involvement has been well-documented, what can you tell me about that? How do you think her influence is visible?
Phoebe is such a fantastic writer and I’ve been a fan of hers for many years, so I think her work is always visible within the script. You always feel her presence within a script. So when I was reading my lines in particular and some of the other lines for women in the movie, you can see the wit and sharpness and the smartness and the elegance. And sometimes the bravado in her writing that just represents real women today which made me feel comfortable enough to have conversations about pushing the needle further and seeing how much we could get out of that idea and having the amount of women that we do in this movie. So her wit and intelligence is key to this script.
Phoebe has previously spoken about the relevance of Bond today and his attitude towards women. Do you feel Bond has evolved in that sense?
I do feel he’s evolved but even if he didn’t, the women around him have evolved so much that he wouldn’t have a choice but to react to them in the necessary way. That’s the most important thing. We have women today who are filled with such agency and power. They know their worth so much and we actually walk around feeling that much more now, so men react to us in a way they didn’t react to us before. Like they know we’re in the room now, and they know they have to listen up. And if they’re not now, we’re in a process where we are slowly changing some men’s minds. We’re slowly steering them in the direction of collaboration and working with us to achieve our personal goals and our world goals.
There was a great deal of trolling directed at you when your involvement was announced which must have been incredibly difficult to deal with. How did you get through that period and what would your advice be to other women in similar positions?
It wasn’t so much a matter of ‘coping’ – I feel very grateful to be from a very grounded background. I have a lot of grounded people in my life who remind me of who I am, my worth and that I’m enough just being me. So whenever there is anything outside of me being talked about, it quite literally doesn’t matter. That’s not to say I’m a robot but I’m not going to choose social media and other people’s opinions over my family and career! We all know social media. People talk for two days on something that they don’t know and then it’s yesterday’s news. What still remains is the job I love and working with wonderful people. So how did I cope with it? I just kept it moving. If it was another young black girl in the same position as me being cast in Time to Die she’d get exactly the same treatment. It’s not personal to me.
Do you feel opportunities for women in Hollywood are changing?
I think they’re shifting. I only believe change is happening when we don’t have talk about it in interviews. We’re still in the process of the wheel turning – we’re shifting and I’m excited for that shift. The change will come when it’s not a conversation anymore.
Your family is from Jamaica, how was it filming there?
Both my grandparents and my parents were born and bred there so it was wonderful shooting there. But very odd to be working and not spending time with my family. It was a delight to be in a part of Jamaica I hadn’t been to before. It’s a real rural untouched area that was brilliant to bring this quintessentially British production to. And working with a Jamaican crew to create this part of the film that’s going to be so powerful with the essence of Jamaica and Bond. To go back and celebrate the birthplace of Bond was wonderful, it was fantastic.
Technology plays such a huge part in the films, how important is it to you?
While I’m pretty zen, there’s no way I could be without my phone and what that provides for me everyday. So it’s highly important to have a phone and a laptop that enables you to stay in communication with your family when you’re out of the country, to run businesses, to stay on top of everything. So it’s highly important. Highly!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was in drama school, a writer/director called Shane Walker told me ‘don’t be a dumb actor’. And at the time I was like, ‘I’m not a dumb actor, how dare you!’ but when I thought about it, it made me really strive for representing something and standing by something as an actor. Not just getting up on a stage or walking to a set and trying to entertain, but to inspire, create opinions, change opinions, change circumstances, change your environment, change the way the industry views you, the way the industry casts movies. With me, comes many communities and I’m able to affect them with my work so I’m very careful about the roles I choose because of that. I do have influence and I want to use that as powerfully and as positively as possible.
HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, is the is the official handset partner of No Time To Die and the Nokia 8.3 5G is the first ever 5G Nokia phone, featuring in No Time To Die. You can pre-order it here in the UK.