By Katrina Gay, National Director of Communications, and Courtney Reyers, Director of Publishing, NAMI
In her latest film, Frankie & Alice, Academy Award-winner Halle Berry plays a ’70s-era go-go dancer with dissociative identity disorder (DID) [formerly known as “multiple personality disorder”] named Frankie—a black woman with two alternative identities: a scared, 7-year-old little girl named Genius and a white, bigoted Southern belle named Alice. With the care and support of a dedicated psychiatrist, Frankie is able to progress on a recovery journey that saves her and helps her reclaim her life.
The film is set to premiere in select theaters on April 4, 2014. NAMI recently talked with Ms. Berry about her role, the film and her commitment to the project.
Why was this project important to you?
Aside from the role being desirable as an actor—the opportunity to embrace a challenging, complex role—it was important to me because the film helps put light into a dark space. People who live with mental illness often struggle. Others often look down on them or have negative opinions of them. Hopefully, this film will do some good. I am happy that the film is being released in theaters and, eventually, DVD, and hope that it promotes the importance of compassion for others, that it helps to educate the public. In playing Frankie Murdoch, based on the true story of her life, as I grew to understand the condition of DID, and as I acted through Frankie’s struggle, I grew as a human being. I would like to inspire that with this film.
You play a character that lives with DID. How did you prepare for this role?
Initially, it was through meeting the real woman that the story is modeled after, Frankie. She was my greatest source of information and inspiration; I wanted to protect her and her story. I wanted to understand and portray her stories of frustration and fear. I felt responsible for making sure that these stories were addressed in the movie. I also did basic reading on DID and mental illness—but most of my understanding and inspiration came from Frankie’s life and her story; the personal story is the best source. And finally, Dr. Oz, her doctor, had transcripts as well that spoke to his feelings. I was able to secure some videotapes of health care providers who have worked with and helped people with DID in their recovery. Watching these was very beneficial to helping me ensure that we were incorporating the medical side of the condition into the film, too.
For the rest of the interview, CLICK HERE to visit the NAMI National Site.