Like many actors and actresses, I suppose my career choice began in childhood. I wanted love and attention. Born to teen parents whose marriage didn’t last, I was adopted by my aunt and uncle and raised with my cousins. But before all the adoption papers were signed when I was four, I had lived with several different relatives. Black Beauty was my favorite book. I had an LP picture-book version of it, and I listened to the recording to the point of memorization. When people would come to our house, I would recite Black Beauty.

Decades later, I thought about the book after reading a post by Sting, who had suggested to his fans that a person’s favorite childhood novel had a deep psychological and prophetic significance. Black Beauty is the story of a horse who is passed from owner to owner, but who ends his days happy and safe in old age, reunited with a previous kind owner.

Sting was a figure in my career choice when I was in my final year of undergraduate college in Louisiana. A friend asked me to be the prop mistress for a play at the local community theatre. As I enjoyed watched the actors in the comedy from backstage, I was emboldened to try acting. There was a rumor that Sting was being considered for a movie filming in the area, so I also figured if I were in the local play when he was in town, perhaps he might see me in it. That was the logic of my obsession. So, I auditioned, and got a role in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as the precocious student Sandy. I loved acting from then on. Sting never came to town, but not to fear, I met him several times later in life.

Camille James Harman
Photo credit by Charles Mitri.

I moved to Richmond, Virginia in 1988 and was taking hunter/jumper riding lessons on Tuesday nights when I found a theatre company that offered classes on the same night. I made the decision to quit riding and take up acting. Soon I was acting professionally in plays. In 1991, I went back to Louisiana to get my Masters of Fine Arts in Drama at the University of New Orleans. That was a wonderful time of my life, acting, teaching and living in one of the most beautiful, romantic cities in the world. My school encouraged students to have an agent and get film and television work occasionally, so when I graduated, I had my SAG card and several credits, including a made-for-TV film about WW II called Silent Cries, starring Gena Rowlands and Annabeth Gish. I continued to act in professional theatre, playing Tina in Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding. I played Lady Anne in Richard III in a professional outdoor production that included a real horse onstage, and my boyfriend Eric played Richard. Feeling on top of the world, we moved to Los Angeles a few months later.

Before I left for Los Angeles, I was selling art on Royal Street in the French Quarter. One day at lunch, I bought Whitley Strieber’s book Breakthrough, about his alleged alien encounters. The book ignited a passion for UFO research.

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in the fall of 2015, my interest in UFOs morphed into actual UFO experiences. Eric and I had a sighting while walking our dog. I reported it and began going to UFO meetings, and meeting experts in the field. I had bizarre experiences at night that produced real physical effects on my body, and I underwent hypnosis to discover more. I became convinced I had been abducted by aliens! This was very disruptive to my life. My boyfriend was mortified by my openness about it. In 1997 I traveled to Roswell with friends for the 50th anniversary of the alleged UFO crash festivities and conference. In 1998 I visited England to see the crop circles for myself. While there, I had a fling with a British crop circle enthusiast. I even found Sting’s house in Wiltshire, and saw Sting standing in the driveway when the gate opened. I was frozen and couldn’t even wave.

Upon returning home to Los Angeles, predictably, my relationship with Eric ended. Soon afterward, I met my future husband Jeff at a gas station in Malibu. We started talking because of a bumper sticker on my car. I began writing for UFO Magazine. That lasted from 2000-2004. Jeff and I married in 2001 and had a son in 2002. Jeff is a professional astrologer who had also worked in the entertainment industry. He had owned a recording studio before we met. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I was traumatized. I worried about living in earthquake country, and I convinced Jeff to leave Los Angeles. We moved to Tucson, Arizona.

We started buying film equipment, and we produced a short film in Arizona, with all of us and our friends as actors. Meanwhile, I began to write a memoir about my UFO experiences. When I got to the end of my story, I was angry that I wasn’t able to make a confident conclusion about what had happened to me. I prayed, “God, I am tired of trying to figure this out. It’s been seventeen years! I’ve read every book and met every expert, and I still don’t know what really happened to me. Are these creatures really aliens? Are they time travelers? Am I part of government mind control experiment? Please reveal to me what aliens really are, so I can finish the book, not lead anyone astray, and get on with my life!” Within a month or so, a few books came into my awareness, and upon reading them, I had a gradual awakening that caused me believe that aliens were probably demons in disguise. I returned to the Church in 2013. In 2015, released from the obsession with UFOs, I was ready to leave the Arizona desert and return to Los Angeles to try acting again. Jeff was thrilled to return after ten years in the desert.

In Los Angeles, I had to start all over again as an actress. It helped that Jeff paying the bills, and I didn’t have to do my actor support jobs I had needed to do when I was younger. Our teen son Aidan was acting as well, so I was happy to celebrate his successes while I acted in various student films and worked background in several features. I was SAG/AFTRA, so without an agent, this meant slim pickings. My son was a non-union, adorable teen, so he worked all the time. Soon I was cast in two excellent short films, Strings of Hope, about Post-WWII Germany, and James Joyce’s The Sisters, based on the famous, Irish, short story. Both films have been selections of many film festivals.

One day I submitted to a casting call for a feature film looking for women to resemble Mary Matalin and Laura Bush. I got an audition for Mary Matalin. I knew who she was, but after I researched Mary Matalin and Dick Cheney online, I realized that she was with him when 9-11 happened. I assembled a similar outfit, blue suit, red blouse, etc., and I arrived to my audition dressed like the photos of her in the underground command center of the White House that fateful day.

I booked it! Only, at first, it was just featured background, no lines. However, I read and watched her interviews, and prepared for a possible upgrade.I found out that this was a huge film, directed by Adam McKay. At my costume fitting I mentioned to the costumer, Susan Matheson, that I was ready for lines. She had enjoyed meeting the real Mary Matalin in New Orleans when filming McKay’s The Big Short.

My first day of shooting happened to be my birthday. I didn’t know with whom I would be acting until the night before when I got my call sheet. I could hardly sleep that night after I realized I’d be in a scene with Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Don McManus, Eddie Marsan, and Justin Kirk the next day at Sony Pictures. I got to the set, found my trailer, and went into hair and make-up. Soon I was seated in a chair in the reconstructed office of Vice President Dick Cheney. I was chatting with the stand-ins and mentioned it was my birthday. Soon, they left and the stars entered the set. I was overwhelmed with Christian Bale’s transformation into Dick Cheney. Steve Carell looked amazing as Donald Rumsfeld. I was old enough to have lived through 9-11. I was newly married and pregnant when it happened. And as a conspiracy theorist, I was curious to see how this film would portray those events. I hadn’t seen the script at all.

So, suddenly I was in the room with these top actors, the only woman in the scene, and I didn’t even know what was happening in the scene! As they read through their lines, I heard a voice over the speaker. It was our fearless director, Adam McKay. He said, “Camilla? Camille? When Christian says …, can you say …?” “Yes, sir,” I responded loudly and clearly. Instantly, everyone stood up and shook my hand, congratulating me. Mr. McKay also wished me a happy birthday. I was whisked away to be fitted with a microphone. When I returned, I was ready for my lines. Thank God, the prop department had given me a portfolio with a legal pad in it, because I was scribbling my lines down as fast as Adam McKay thought of them. We did the scene a few different ways. It was thrilling. At the end of the day, I signed a new contract, and made sure to ask for the sides for my scenes which were shooting subsequently.

My next day of shooting, the following week, included working with Lisa Gay Hamilton, who played Condoleezza Rice. Again, I was thrown lines. My last of the three days was a big scene. I greeted Brad Pitt on set that day. He was one of our producers. Tyler Perry, who played Colin Powell, was there as well. I told him that in grad school I was an usher at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. I knew that Perry, who grew up poor in New Orleans, used to sneak into that theatre at intermission to see the Broadway shows that came to town. We had a good laugh about that. On my last day I had lines with Amy Adams, but they didn’t make the cut.

(From L to R) Camille Harman as Mary Matalin, Don McManus as David Addington, Eddie Marsan as Paul Wolfowitz, and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in Adam McKay’s VICE, an Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Credit : Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Right before I got this job, my priest went to the Italian shrine of St. Genesius, the Patron Saint of Actors, and prayed for all of us in the entertainment industry. My husband told me in 2018 that according to my astrology, I was coming into a career peak that would last twenty years! I prayed for the intercession of St. Genesius and St. Vitus, the other Patron Saint of Actors. A year passed, then the movie Vice was released on Christmas Day 2018. It won numerous awards including a Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and Academy Award. I hired a publicist and fully enjoyed awards season, going to parties, red carpets, gifting suites and enjoying the perks of being in a big, critically-acclaimed film. I wrote a letter to the real Mary Matalin, with whom I have a lot in common. She lives in New Orleans now. I received a sweet note from her the day after the Oscars.

We’ll see what comes next. The UFO/Conspiracy part of me likes the paranormal thriller genre, but the religious side of me craves family-friendly and faith-based projects. I love sit-com as well. My favorite shows are This is Us, Last Man Standing, and Stranger Things. I often play the anxious mom, by-the-book professional, or the spunky journalist. My agent and manager are happy for me and hopeful that doors will open because of the success of Vice. I’ve recovered from my 17-year detour into UFO research. Hopefully my weird past is not a deal breaker for future projects. In this crazy town, probably not. I’m a late-bloomer, and I feel like the horse in Black Beauty, that despite some trials and tribulation, everything will work out for me in the end.

www.camillejamesharman.com

Christian Bale Vice
Christian Bale Vice