She’s one of Oprah’s favourite actresses, has the Streep seal of approval and is starring alongside Emma Watson and Ewan McGregor in Beauty and the Beast. Meet Gugu Mbatha-Raw, an Oxford girl done very, very good.
You don’t forget your first . At least Gugu Mbatha-Raw won’t. The woman she now calls her ‘fairy godmother’ – but had never met at the time – left her a voicemail four years ago, when Gugu was in a New York cab on her way to JFK.
‘When I listened to the message, it was the weirdest thing,’ she says, succumbing to a fit of giggles. ‘Because at that time I was doing Oprah’s meditation experience with Deepak Chopra, where they email you a short meditation each day. Then suddenly I get this lovely rich voice saying, “Hello, this is Oprah” – and it sounded just like the opening of the meditation app. I thought I’d pressed the wrong button by mistake.’
She’s in New York a week before Christmas—a stopover to see friends, have lunch with a director, and check out Othello, the Off-Broadway show no one else can manage to get tickets to. She has a good in: The guy who plays Othello, David Oyelowo, stars opposite her in J. J. Abrams’s new Cloverfield movie, out this fall. Mbatha-Raw is also in one of the few reboots Abrams isn’t responsible for: Beauty and the Beast (March 17), in which she plays a French maid turned singing and dancing feather duster. Portraying a Swiffer is a nice break from the dark (and moving) roles she’s taken recently, including a victim of gun violence in Miss Sloane and a terminally ill bisexual woman who becomes trapped in a computer simulation on Black Mirror. “I love tragedy, but you can’t do it all the time—it’s way too draining,” she says. [Source]
“We were in this residential area, it was almost like The Truman Show, some of the houses were so new,” remembers Gugu Mbatha-Raw, star of the black comedy’s most intriguing new episode. “At one point this ostrich walked through the housing estate and on to the beach. And he sat down in the sand and started having a sort of sand bath. We were trying to film but, y’know, what do you do if an ostrich wanders into frame? It was so surreal … sort of magical.”
By now the Oxfordshire-born Mbatha-Raw, 33, is au fait enough with TV and film sets to appreciate a little divergence from the norm. Moreover, her schedule has been so non-stop of late that she probably just appreciated the break. [Source]
If you look at Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s acting career, it takes a while for a pattern to emerge. She first gained attention at 22 as Juliet opposite Andrew Garfield’s Romeo at the renowned Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. In the criminally overlooked romantic drama Beyond the Lights, by Gina Prince-Bythewood (who made the infamous Love & Basketball over a decade ago), Mbatha-Raw played a struggling pop star. Her “sleeper hit” Belle tells the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate biracial woman brought up as an orphaned member of her father’s aristocratic family. And in her upcoming Oscar bid, Free State of Jones, she stars alongside Matthew McConaughey as a slave fighting for her freedom.
What all these parts have in common: They’re nuanced and ambitious, roles for someone who’s not content to just be the girlfriend or the wife. She talked with the Cut about forging her own path, making it in Hollywood, and what she’s most grateful for. [Source]