Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category
  November 24, 2021
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature, Gallery Update, Interview, Photoshoot

In June 2020, amid the global Black Lives Matter movement, a three-page open letter began circulating across the U.K. film and TV industry with four commands from its signatories: Banish your weak excuses, be more demanding, expand your vision and empower Black and brown independent producers.

Modeled after a letter to Hollywood issued by New York’s Black TV & Film Collective, the U.K. dispatch was bold and unapologetic, ultimately garnering 5,010 signatures from the likes of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michaela Coel, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, Florence Pugh and other top talent.

It was, as Mbatha-Raw puts it, “so un-British.” In a good way.

The U.K. had its own reckoning with race following the murder of George Floyd on May 25 in America, and the local film and TV industry was quick to make declarations of allyship and engage in untold commitments. The letter presented a framework for the missing link: accountability.

“The Morning Show” star Mbatha-Raw was among a group of signatories of the letter — including actors, writers, producers, agents and casting directors — approached by Variety to reflect on how the equality-focused agenda around the Black Lives Matter movement and the demands made in the letter have manifested in their careers. From their vantage point, has it been a movement or merely a moment?

“I remember thinking, ‘There’s nothing polite about this [letter],’” recalls Mbatha-Raw, who was filming in the U.S. when she was sent the document through her U.K. agent. “It was assertive and demanding, and articulated things that have been very easy to generalize.”

In the past year, Mbatha-Raw — who will soon relocate from Los Angeles back to her home of Oxfordshire in the U.K. — has unlocked a new chapter in her career by accepting invitations to serve as a producer, first on the thriller series “The Girl Before,” in which she stars alongside David Oyelowo, and Apple TV Plus’ thriller “Surface” from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine. The timing of these offers isn’t lost on her, and she’s eager to take them on.

“There is an awareness now that if you’re telling a story about women of color, there will be nuances and details in the story and how it’s put together where it’s valuable to have those voices and points of view helping to assemble the project,” says Mbatha-Raw. “I’m trying to be the change myself. I don’t think I’ve worked with any producers of color in the U.K., and that’s shocking to me.” [More at Source]

  June 14, 2021
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature, Gallery Update, Interview, Photoshoot


Whether she’s seeking out meaningful roles or dedicating her time to working closely with charities, finding a sense of purpose is what continues to drive GUGU MBATHA-RAW – both personally and professionally. Here, the British actor talks to AJESH PATALAY about her valiant new role in Marvel’s Disney+ series, Loki, and the work that sustains her spirit

You’ve got to hand it to Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Not only for landing the lead role in the hugely anticipated Disney+ series Loki, opposite Tom Hiddleston, but for having walked away from comparable superhero roles in the past. “There have been a few I’ve auditioned for and not got,” the 35-year-old actor tells me. “And one or two [that] I got and turned down.” Why was that? “Sometimes [the role] was so secretive, I was like, I’m not signing up to something where I don’t know what it is. Sometimes I wasn’t sure the character was going to have enough layers. Sometimes the tone of the piece just wasn’t to my taste: how the violence is depicted, how the women are represented. Those things are important to me.”

Loki was appealingly different, though. “For a start, it was exciting that Kate Herron was directing all six episodes,” Mbatha-Raw says of the writer-director who gained recognition for Netflix’s Sex Education. “Also, having been to drama school with Tom Hiddleston, there was a lovely circle of life about working on something together at this point.” Both studied at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, though Mbatha-Raw was in the year above (she graduated in 2004), so they didn’t share any classes. But the future God of Mischief still made an impression: “He was blond. Sort of angelic. He seemed very…” she casts around for the right description, “centered is probably the best word”. As for her, she was “a keen bean”, straight out of school, newly moved to London from Oxfordshire, where she grew up, and living her lifelong dream of becoming an actor.

The big clincher for Mbatha-Raw about Loki – which is based on Hiddleston’s character in the Thor and Avenger movies – was getting to play Ravonna Renslayer, a role with a rich and turbulent history in the comics. “It was very much pitched to me as her origin story,” Mbatha-Raw explains. “That was exciting, to be able to take ownership of a character pre the comics. She’s an authoritative character. Morally ambiguous. She has to make some difficult choices. I loved that there is a complexity to her that I hadn’t seen in any of the [superhero] roles that had come my way before.” [More at Source]

  April 17, 2021
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature, Gallery Update, Photoshoot

David Oyelowo: It’s so specific to be Black, British, of African descent, living in Los Angeles and working in Hollywood. I can count the people I know like that on one hand. Among them is Chiké, who is one of my best friends in the world. He’s been there for so many of the milestones in my life, and my kids consider him an uncle. Through him I met Gugu, and one of the things she and I bonded over is that we were both born in Oxford — at the same hospital. Gugu is one of the loveliest people I know, and one of the most humble and unassuming, especially considering how talented she is.

Aml and I found each other when he started to dip his toe in the L.A. scene. He has an entrepreneurial spirit that, to be perfectly honest, isn’t encouraged in British culture. I always felt like he would do great things, especially in the States. Malachi and I met through a program at BAFTA; he’s been my mentee for four or five years now. And I met Cynthia in L.A. She’s also of Nigerian descent, but we really bonded over the fact that when she was cast as Harriet Tubman in “Harriet” (2019), she got some flak because she was a Black British actress playing an African-American icon. I experienced some of that when I played Dr. King in “Selma” (2014), so I became a sounding board for her.

These are friends with whom I share an outlook on life and interests, whether it’s our faith, our culture or our aspirations. To be Black in America is to sometimes feel gaslit, so it’s important to have people around you who get it, who help you remember that you’re not crazy. And then, of course, central to any great friendship is encouraging one another, cheerleading from the sidelines and really making sure the people you love see how you see them.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Chiké, who is one of my oldest friends, introduced me to David on my first trip to L.A. around 2010. I remember going to David’s house, getting frozen yogurt in Sherman Oaks with his kids and his wife and thinking, “This is amazing — they seem so normal and cool!” He was one of the first Black British actors I met in the States, and it was nice to have a friend in the industry with whom I had a shared cultural experience. Cynthia and I were both at RADA, though at completely different times, so that’s the connective tissue there. And Aml and I worked together when we were 20 and 22, respectively, on the TV movie “Fallout” (2008), and again on the film “Beyond the Lights” (2014). It was such a great experience. And we kept in touch. Even if you’re not working together, it’s wonderful to have someone to call for advice and support. [more at source]

  July 06, 2020
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature, Gallery Update, Interview, Photoshoot

Friends Gugu Mbatha-Raw MBE and Amma Asante MBE first worked together on the acclaimed and multi-award-winning, 2013 period drama film Belle, which Asante directed and Mbatha-Raw starred in as Dido Elizabeth Belle. Dubbed Britain’s ‘first Black aristocrat’, Belle was the mixed race, illegitimate daughter of a naval officer, Sir John Lindsay, and an enslaved African woman named Maria Bell. In 1772, Belle’s great-uncle, Lord Mansfield, in his capacity as Lord Chief Justice, ruled that slavery had no precedent in common law in England. The film’s themes feel particularly pertinent in this politically charged climate, which saw a statue of 17th-century slave trader, Edward Colston, toppled in Bristol at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in the UK. 

Since then, Mbatha-Raw has forged a critically lauded career built on championing strong, Black female narratives. She starred in the first-ever $100m film to be helmed by an African-American woman, Ava DuVernay’s Wrinkle In Time in 2018. She also portrayed the first Black Miss World – Jennifer Hosten, ‘Miss Grenada’ – in Misbehaviour, and received much awards attention for the Apple TV+ hit, The Morning Show. Now, Mbatha-Raw is set to release World War II movie Summerland by Olivier Award-winning playwright, Jessica Swale, as well as the Marvel series Loki, alongside Tom Hiddleston.

Although other upcoming projects may have taken a hiatus due to COVID-19, Mbatha-Raw has been spending her enforced period of inactivity avidly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Via the Instagram-based venture, Still We Rise, she has been auctioning her own artworks of two African Americans who tragically lost their lives to police violence, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Proceeds go to charities that support social justice, including Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, Movement for Black Lives and the Bail Project.

Ahead of the release of Summerland, the Black British powerhouses – Mbatha-Raw in LA and Asante in Denmark – caught up during the last few days of lockdown. Their frank and personal conversation encompasses protests, Britain’s past and, at this very necessary junction, their prescient hopes for the future.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: ‘When I saw the statue of Edward Colston being pulled down, I was thinking, “My gosh, if Belle was to come out now, would it be received in a different way?”’

Amma Asante: ‘I sincerely think it would be received in a way that it should have in the first place. The film was about love in so many ways, but it was actually also asking some very powerful questions about today. When I saw that statue being pulled down, I unfortunately couldn’t hide my excitement on social media. My delight was evident.’

GMR: ‘I don’t agree with the statues being glorified, obviously. But I also think that we can’t erase the past. I think you have to be able to know the scars of history to learn from it. If there hadn’t been a painting of Belle, then we wouldn’t have known about her.’

AA: ‘That was the evidence of who she was.’

GMR: ‘And we still need the evidence – we can’t erase all the negative, and then it just disappears and we forget what happened.’

AA: ‘I think we should put them where they belong, which is in museums. Once these relics are put in museums, then more nuanced conversations can occur. If you are Black, walking through your town centre and your four-year-old daughter says, “Who’s he? Why is he up there?”, how do you explain it?’

GMR: ‘There’s no context. I think that’s the thing about at least putting it in a museum.’

AA: ‘It’s so important to how we understand who we are. To own who we have been is the only way to truly be able to celebrate the things that are worth celebrating and change the things that weren’t. I hope that is where the conversations will land us.’ [More at Source]

  August 16, 2018
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature

   
   

British Hollywood actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw met with refugees this week in Rwanda’s Mahama and Gihembe refugee camps, on her first trip with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Rwanda has been hosting thousands of refugees for decades, and today supports over 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers who have fled mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Government of Rwanda has generously maintained open borders and refugees in Rwanda are granted the right to work as well as being progressively included into host communities, national health and education systems.

After spending time meeting and talking to Burundian and Congolese refugees and seeing some of UNHCR’s work to support and protect them, Mbatha-Raw commented, “It’s one thing to hear about UNHCR’s work, and another to witness it first-hand. It has been eye-opening to meet the refugees who have fled unimaginable violence and suffering, and to hear their stories. I met a woman, Rehema, who had just arrived from Burundi – she was 9 months pregnant and with her two year old daughter Josephine. Her husband had been killed and she fled desperate for help with a baby about to be born. Seeing how quickly the UNHCR team and partners worked to get her settled and give her special assistance was incredibly impressive.”

”I have been able to see some amazing, positive UNHCR supported projects here in Rwanda, like MADE51 an inspiring initiative in which Burundian refugee women create beautiful products like bowls, baskets and bags for international sales.”Mbatha-Raw continued. “It’s uplifting to see these talented women getting the opportunity to earn their own money, while learning creative and business skills. But MADE 51 also creates a vital healing environment, a feeling of dignity, hope and a sense of working together to create a new community.

The group of artisan women Mbatha-Raw met are supported by ‘Indego Africa’ in Mahama camp as part of UNHCR’s MADE51 initiative, which helps to connect refugee-made artisanal products with international markets.

UNHCR has led a programme of resettlement to the United States for Congolese refugees who have fled to Rwanda. The US also provides significant financial assistance for refugee programs in Rwanda and is the largest individual donor to UNHCR. Since 2002, more than 57,000 Congolese refugees have been resettled in the United States. Commenting on this Mbatha-Raw said “Refugee resettlement is so vital for many of the vulnerable refugees I have met, who have already shown incredible resilience and strength, resettlement has the capacity to be completely life-changing. I met a young woman, Jeanette, about to be resettled in Atlanta and when I asked her what she would do there. She told me ‘I am young, I can do anything!’ But even though needs are greater than ever, less than 1% of refugees worldwide are ever resettled.”

UNHCR’s Representative to Rwanda, Ahmed Baba Fall, said, ‘The Burundian and Congolese refugee crises remain two of the most chronically underfunded in the world. High profile visits like Gugu’s help to shine a light on these forgotten crises by amplifying the voices of those who have been forced to flee to ensure they are not forgotten.