How car accident informed Naomie Harris' Man Who Fell to Earth character
Her latest role, scientist Justin Falls, addresses the harsh US healthcare system.
Serving as a belated sequel to the 1976 film with David Bowie, the show stars Harris as discredited scientist Justin Falls, who reluctantly assists a being from another planet (portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor) with his mission on Earth.
After being booted out of her profession, Justin is dropped by her medical insurance providers, which means she can no longer afford to care for her terminally ill father – a situation that will sadly be relatable to numerous Americans.
In preparation for the role, Harris recalled her own experience with the country's notorious healthcare system, having been involved in a car crash while travelling in the States at the age of 26.
"Someone who was driving the car, he fell asleep at the wheel. I was asleep [too], but I was the passenger so I was entitled to be asleep; the driver, not so much," she began.
"The next thing I knew I was upside-down in the air and then we spun off the side of the freeway. I managed to climb out of the sunroof, and the driver did as well – and then the car blew up," continued Harris. "My blood pressure was dropping so they thought I had internal bleeding, so I was rushed to the hospital.
"I will never forget being wheeled into that A&E, where the first thing they asked me was, ‘What are your insurance details?’ And I was just like, ‘wow, this is inhumane’.
"I mean, I cannot believe that your first instinct as those who are meant to care for people who are in need is not just to take you in and look after you. But it's like, ‘Where's the money coming from? Otherwise, you're out on your ear’."
Harris did not have health insurance at the time and was therefore billed approximately $17,000 for just "a few hours in the hospital" (adjusted for inflation, that would be around $27,000 or £22,000 today).
"That was a very, very dramatic story," she added. "But it was just to say I have had a taste of what it is like in the American healthcare service – and it's brutal. I mean, I just don't know how ordinary people on ordinary salaries survive that.
"It's totally unfair… It's disgusting and I think it's fabulous that the show highlights the difficulty that so many families and individuals are in as a result of that lack of care of the healthcare system in the United States."
The Man Who Fell to Earth also stars Bill Nighy in the role originated by Bowie, while Sonya Cassidy (The Last Kingdom), Rob Delaney (Catastrophe) and Clarke Peters (Da 5 Bloods) co-star.
The Man Who Fell to Earth is available on Paramount+ from today. New episodes will be available to stream weekly on Wednesdays.
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