Halle Berry wears many hats—movie star, mother, Oscar winner—but now we can add producer to the list. While many would have given up on a project that took years to see the light of day, Berry fought for more than five years to ensure her latest film, Frankie & Alice, made it theaters.
The film, which the actress produced and is based on a true story, finds Berry playing a woman who battles dissociative identity disorder and who must work through her inner demons to live a normal life. ESSENCE.com caught up with Berry to discuss the film and why she just had to tell this story.
ESSENCE.com: This project has been a labor of love for you and has been years in the making. What does it feel like to finally see it make it to the screen?
HALLE BERRY: It’s like birthing a baby that you’ve carried for five years and it feels really good. It’s something I care deeply about and I worked really hard on it. It’s the first film I ever produced, so for all those reasons it’s truly a passion. And now that it’s not going to sit on a shelf, it’s going to see the light of day? I’m over the moon.
What made you want to fight so hard to get this story out there?
For this woman to have survived this, and not just survived it, but she is now teaching at one of the most reputable universities in the country—she’s revered. She has found a way to live with this disorder, and not only live, but thrive. I thought it was a great testament to her character, to overcoming mental illness, and at the end of the day, it was inspiring and I wanted to be apart of bringing a story like this to the screen.
Your character has dissociative identity disorder and it was amazing to watch you switch between the different personalities. How did you prepare to play a grown woman (Frankie), a child (Genius), and a white racist Southern woman (Alice)?
I prepared each character as if they were all different. I also watched hours and hours of video of real people who suffer from this disorder. I watched them go in and out of character, and I read a lot on the subject to understand how they got triggered and switch from character to character. The single most important thing that I learned was that many of them go in and out of characters because each one is fighting to get to be the one who lives. This leaves Frankie with a constant struggle going on inside. So that’s where the work started for me, figuring out how that happens.
Did you have a favorite personality?
I loved all three of them. I found a way a way to understand all them, even Alice. When you really understand someone’s journey then there’s really no good or bad, it just is. Alice became someone who just was for me; I didn’t judge her. To judge her would have been like suicide for that character.
Now that you’re a producer are we going to see more projects from you, particularly because there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of quality roles for Black women in Hollywood?
I hope so. I have a production company called 606 Films and I hope that through that company I can start to generate, not just for Black people, but I want to tell good stories. I will make sure we’re all represented, but I just want to tell good stories that I care about and I hope audiences will too.
Frankie & Alice opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow, April 4.