“007” actresses Halle Berry, Naomie Harris, Trina Parks and Gloria Hendry came together for the first time at the California American Museum Tuesday night for the Black Women of Bond Tribute.
The celebration, presented by Sony Pictures, Essence Magazine and the African American Film Critics Association, highlighted the actresses who made groundbreaking contributions to one of the biggest film franchises in cinematic history.
Parks, the first-ever black female actress to appear in the films, admitted that she had no idea who James Bond was before she auditioned for her character in 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever.” Born in Brooklyn, she said that it was her dancing background that helped her nab the role as Thumper — Bond’s beautiful adversary with high-kicks and long legs.
“I had a short afro at the time and I said, ‘The character is strong, but she’s also sexy and other Bond girls have been that way, so why can’t I?’” said Parks.
Hendry, who appeared in 1983’s “Live and Let Die,” became Bond’s first African-American love interest. Little known fact: Hendry’s love scenes with then-Bond Roger Moore were cut when the film was initially released in South Africa because it was prohibited by the apartheid government. At the time, her romantic role with Moore was a feat that she never imagined.
“When I was asked to do this movie, I said, ‘I’m not tall, I’m not blue-eyed, I’m not busty and I’m not white. What do they want me for?’” she remembered. “A week later I was cast for it.”
The “007” film franchise has spanned more than 50 years and featured five black actresses — including Grace Jones in “A View to a Kill” in 1985. Berry’s splash into the franchise, in an iconic orange bikini, influenced many including current Bond girl Harris.
“Growing up in London, there were not many representations of black female beauty growing up. I really have to thank Bond and the franchise for being forward-thinking,” said Harris. She is the first British black actress to star in the franchise, portraying Eve Moneypenny in “Skyfall” and “Spectre.”
Berry shared with the room that her time on “Die Another Day” in 2002 had bonded her with her fellow “007” women for life.
“To be a part of this legacy is a huge honor; it’s a highlight of my career,” said Berry. “It’s one of the best experiences of my entire life.”
Celebrity attendees included Freda Payne, Garcelle Beauvais, LisaRaye McCoy, Elise Neal and ChantÃ© Moore. The reception included a musical performance by Choklate and an unveiling of Harris’ Essence Magazine cover. Special “007” martinis were also served — shaken, not stirred.
“Spectre” opens Nov. 6 in the U.S.