Now onscreen in Frankie & Alice, Halle Berry filled us in on why it was so important to see this story make it to the big screen and how she connected with her character’s will to survive.
Halle Berry clearly doesn’t shy away from gritty plots or sensitive subjects when choosing roles. As a matter of fact, we’re pretty sure our April Girl Crush gravitates toward complicated material. Cases in point? Films like Monster’s Ball, Cloud Atlas and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
And Frankie & Alice, Berry’s new film in which she plays a ’70s go-go dancer with dissociative identity disorder battling a white supremacist in her head, may just be her most complex role to date.
Frankie & Alice was actually filmed in 2008 and was reportedly a pet project for Berry since the ’90s. In 2011, when the movie was released for a “qualifying run” for awards consideration, Berry received a Golden Globe nod for her riveting work. Unfortunately, a last-minute funding hiccup kept the movie from being released nationwide at that time… but Berry never gave up.
“This was important because it’s a true story, and I think once I realized — I read it or I heard the idea of it — I thought, ‘Wow, that’s kind of crazy… I don’t even know if I believe that.’ But once I really found out it was real — heard it from the real Frankie — then I thought, ‘I’ve gotta tell this story,'” she explained.
Part of Berry’s unflinching passion for the project stemmed from her desire to help remove the stigma surrounding disorders like Frankie’s.
“I think people need to understand how mental illness works,” she said. “They need to understand how hard it is. I wanted to help take away the stigma of mental illness and hopefully help people have some compassion, you know, for what people like this suffer.”
While Berry admits big blockbuster franchises have a place in everyone’s career, including hers, it’s films like Frankie & Alice that remind her what’s important.
“What’s always been important to me in my career is to not just be about making money, but to be about the art of it,” Berry offered. “And when movies can help educate and tell stories and make people better for having watched that, then I think it’s nice to be a part of that, too.”
This isn’t the first time Berry has had to dig deep into her psyche to muster the emotional fragility and gravitas it takes to portray a character as fractured as Frankie.
“It’s what I call an actor’s smorgasbord,” Berry told us. “When you get to play a character like this that’s so full and so complicated and demanding, it was just great going to work every day.”
But how does Berry keep such roles from overwhelming her?
“I learned early on in my career how to leave the complicated parts of characters on the set, because that’s really not healthy for your real life and luckily I learned that early,” she explained. “So I loved going on and, you know, putting that all on, and then I loved equally as much taking it off at night and having a break from it.”
For Berry, transforming for complex roles is a matter of finding a common thread between her and the character.
“When I read a story and I connect to it, there’s something about that character that I relate to and, in this case, I have no idea what it’s like to have multiple personalities,” said Berry. “But what I did relate to in Frankie was a woman’s struggle to survive and to win.”
Admittedly, Frankie’s sheer determination to thrive and succeed touched a nerve with Berry because of the industry the actress has chosen for herself.
“I’ve felt like I’ve struggled to survive and to find a way for myself — and sometimes make a way out of no way,” she elaborated. “And I think Frankie surviving this almost seemed impossible at times. Me achieving the things I’ve done in my career seemed impossible in the beginning when I first started, but somehow I found a way to do all the things I wanted to do, and I think that was the connection for me between me and Frankie.”