There was absolute silence when Halle Berry stepped heel into the room. Clad in a purple mini-dress, chunky bangle bracelets and stilettos, the actress strutted across the plush carpet as if she was in one of her Revlon commercials.
“Hey-ey,” Berry said, in a feminine tone.
She sat at a large rectangular table at the forefront of one of several conference rooms at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
“We’re in this great place like Miami,” she said. “Why aren’t we doing these interviews out on the beach? This doesn’t make sense!”
Laughs belted out from Berry, her entourage and the dozen or so journalists in attendance on March 19. Within seconds, a journalist ended the small talk to discuss the reason Berry came to Miami in the first place: her latest film, “A Perfect Stranger,” opens in theaters nationwide April 13.
The film delves into the complicated and harsh life of Rowena Price (Berry). An investigative reporter balancing multiple identities, Rowena seduces Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), a famous advertising executive, to determine if he coldly murdered her troubled lifelong friend.
“It gave me a chance to challenge myself in a new way,” Berry said of the film. “This is a character that essentially plays three characters within one character, which I had never done…It got to be a little bit tricky if I didn’t have a real organized way of staying mindful of what character I was supposed to be at each moment, and sometimes it would change.within the scene even.”
Berry said that juggling her on-screen personas also required that she consider how the audience would react to the sudden plot twists.
“It was a challenge to see if I could manipulate the audience into being with me on the journey,” she said. “I never tried to do that before.”
From her days as Miss Ohio USA to becoming the first African-American woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress, Berry’s life is a journey well-documented. But does Berry feel the pressure to live up to her past popularity and success?
“I think I’m hungry to stay relevant in the business as I get older,” she said. “As time goes on, I think that becomes a challenge. There are new people coming into the business all the time. It’s about, ‘How do [I] sustain a career? I’ve been in the business 20 years now, so how do I continue to stay relevant, work and contribute?'”
One way, she said, is to ignore the industry’s expectations that materialized after she won the Oscar for Best Actress for “Monster’s Ball” in 2003.
“I’m trying not to concern myself with it because I see that as career suicide,” Berry said. “Expectations of me were pretty low before I won an Oscar. Maybe ignorance is bliss, but I like to approach my career with no expectations…except from myself.”
Berry sees her work as a producer as an integral part of guiding her career: “I’ve discovered that instead of just sitting around, waiting for [roles] to arrive at my door, I have to go behind the scenes and shepard some of these things along and produce things.”
Because Berry feels Hollywood is resistant to cast her in a romantic comedy, she has taken the lead, producing “Nappily Ever After,” in which she will star as a woman who shaves her head bald after her hair goes to ruins.
“I can not wait to shave my head!” Berry said, adding that she will not do it on “Oprah” as The Miami Hurricane suggested. “I’ve always had this hair issue, so I’m using this movie as therapy.”
“We [women] define ourselves by our hair,” she said. “If our hair’s not right, then we’re just not right in the world. [“Nappily”] is about learning to love yourself for who you really are.”
Despite the projects on her plate, the actress said she’s not ready to rest her acting chops.
“There’s still much to accomplish,” Berry said. “When I feel realized [as an actress], I think I’ll stop. When there’s nothing else to get from it and there’s no more growth to be done, I think I’ll switch careers. And right now, I feel like I’m just hitting my stride.”
Nick Maslow may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.