Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category
  February 17, 2022
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature, Gallery Update, Interview, Photoshoot

There’s no shortage of weird landlord stories out there, but The Girl Before brings the concept to a whole new level. In it, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (of The Morning Show and Loki) plays Jane, a woman recovering from a recent trauma. She seizes a chance to shed the past—and a lot of her stuff—by moving into a sleek, inexplicably affordable jaw-dropper of a house. The only conditions are that the house will collect data on her (it’s rigged up like a giant “smart” device), and that she must follow a lengthy and exacting list of rules (no gardening, no pictures on the wall, etc.) set by Edward, the home’s mysterious owner and architect [played by David Oyelowo]. In time, Jane learns that Edward has some demons of his own involving the home’s previous tenant Emma [played by Jessica Plummer] who, unsettlingly, turns out to look a lot like Jane.

The four-episode miniseries, based on the best-selling novel by J.P. Delaney (who wrote and executive produced the adaptation) and directed by Lisa Brühlmann (Emmy-nominated for her work on Killing Eve) takes viewers through a harrowing psychological labyrinth filled with twists and turns. But the show was also a head trip for its costars Mbatha-Raw and Plummer, as the cast and crew often struggled to tell the two women apart. Recently, the pair caught up via Zoom, and discussed the eerie feeling of playing doppelgängers, their landlord horror stories, and the show’s recent HBO Max release. — EVELINE CHAO

GUGU MBATHA-RAW: You read a lot of psychological thrillers?

JESSICA PLUMMER: Yeah, it’s my go-to genre. Normally it takes me a few days to get through a script, but this one, I literally sat down and read in one sitting.

MBATHA-RAW: It’s such a page-turner, isn’t it? I love that the show has two female leads, which is so refreshing. And it’s stylish, but has substance. It looks really glossy and cool, with the clothes and the house and the architecture, but the characters have all of these deep, emotional things going on.

PLUMMER: Absolutely.

MBATHA-RAW: Tell me about the process of getting into Emma. It’s funny, because we never really acted together. So David [Oyelowo] and Ben [Hardy] know your process much more than I do.

PLUMMER: You know what’s so funny? I actually watched an interview you had done, I think ages ago. You spoke about giving your characters a scent, and I was like, oh my god, I’m doing that.

MBATHA-RAW: Wait, you chose a scent for Emma? What was it?

PLUMMER: Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin.

MBATHA-RAW: This is amazing. Jane’s was Le Labo Rose.

PLUMMER: That’s so funny, I almost gave Emma a rose scent.

MBATHA-RAW: Girls connected.

PLUMMER: I know. I thought a rose perfume would be good for Emma, but when I sprayed it on myself, I felt like it needed to have a bit more zing.

MBATHA-RAW: That totally makes sense, because anything citrus has that zing. I feel like Emma, and you naturally, have that vivacious and bright energy. With Le Labo Rose, I wanted something that feels a bit more heavy and sophisticated. Also because of the rose quartz, which both our characters share. [More at Source]

  December 21, 2021
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature, Gallery Update, Interview, Photoshoot

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is on a quest. For a cup of tea. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask: after all, it is mid-afternoon and we have met at the grandest hotel in San Francisco, the Fairmont, which sits atop Nob Hill. She has a word with the concierge who says that unfortunately tea is unavailable at this hour and advises us to try another hotel nearby. So off we go into the sunshine, Mbatha-Raw joking about how hopeless the Americans are at tea anyway: ‘You get hot water and a teabag on the side and they haven’t even taken it out of the wrapping.’

The next hotel, almost equally luxurious, seems to confirm this. ‘Tea?’ asks the host in the lobby café. ‘Of course.’ He directs us towards a hot-water dispenser and some paper cups. Mbatha-Raw and I look at each other, slightly aghast. ‘We’re so British,’ Mbatha-Raw explains politely. ‘Where can we just sit down and get tea?’

‘Ah yes,’ says the host, with just a flicker of a smile. ‘Have a seat and John will be over to serve you your tea.’

At last we are settled comfortably in a corner with a pot of Earl Grey and some milk on the side. The café is quite crowded but, although she is now one of the most high-profile British actresses in the US, Mbatha-Raw goes unnoticed. Dressed in faded grey jeans, a white shirt and a big yellow scarf, she does not draw attention to herself: ‘I’m living out of a suitcase at the moment, so [I just wear] what’s not too crumpled. Normally I’m top to toe in black, so you’ve got me on quite a bright day.’ She is especially pleased with her beige suede Isabel Marant boots. ‘I stole them from The Girl Before [her current BBC series]; they were for [somebody else’s character] and they didn’t fit. So I thought, “As no one’s wearing them…” Hilarious. I don’t often steal things from shows.’

People often can’t quite place her. ‘Sometimes they say, “You’re an actress, aren’t you? What have I seen you in?’ And it’s always cringey because it could be so many things and I don’t really want to stand there and list my whole CV and they’re going, “No, no, no…”’

It’s certainly an impressive CV. There was her breakout role in the award-winning period drama Belle, the riotous Misbehaviour with Keira Knightley, and the neo-noir crime drama Motherless Brooklyn with Alec Baldwin. (Mbatha-Raw and I meet a couple of weeks after he accidentally shot dead a cinematographer, which she describes as ‘a shocking tragedy’.) More recently, she has played celebrity wrangler Hannah in the Apple TV+ drama series The Morning Show, executive-produced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. And she stars in the 2021 Marvel TV series Loki with Tom Hiddleston, who was at Rada at the same time as Mbatha-Raw. [More at Source]

  December 21, 2021
  Posted by Mouza
  Feature, Gallery Update, Interview, Photoshoot

As those of us who have spent more time than usual at home over the last couple of years will know, those four walls can be a sanctuary, prison or, at times, both. Beautiful, monolithic and eerily empty, the house in the new BBC/HBO drama The Girl Before is definitely both. “The house,” says Gugu Mbatha-Raw with a laugh, “is the real star.” At one point in the first episode, Mbatha-Raw’s character Jane appears to have developed an intense relationship with it, caressing its smooth stone and glass.

In The Girl Before, adapted from the bestselling psychological thriller by JP Delaney, Jane passes a rigorous vetting process before being allowed to rent this minimalist dream home. In return for cheap rent, she has to agree to around 200 strange and stringent rules set by the architect and owner. “No books?” she says, incredulous, when the estate agent reels off some of the stipulations (no pictures, no ornaments, “no children, obviously”). Jane will be watched, her every move and metric monitored, even her moods influenced, by the technologically advanced house and its creepy creator. She soon finds out that she is the second tenant – and she makes a chilling discovery about the first, Emma (played by Jessica Plummer).

Mbatha-Raw does not seem so attached to houses. She bought one in Oxfordshire last year, but has barely had a chance to live there. She is, she says, “a nomad for work”. When we meet in a central London restaurant, Mbatha-Raw has not long returned from Vancouver where she was filming the lead role in Surface, a drama for Apple TV+. Before that, she was in Atlanta, filming the Marvel fantasy series Loki, in which she plays the judge Ravonna Renslayer. The fact that The Girl Before was so different to Loki appealed to her; from period drama to fantasy to Shakespeare to futuristic love stories (she starred in San Junipero, still regarded as the most uplifting episode of Black Mirror), Mbatha-Raw seems resistant to typecasting. “I’d never done a psychological thriller before,” she says, remembering when she read the script for The Girl Before. “I also loved the fact that it was female-driven; there wasn’t just one great female part, but two.”

Both Emma and Jane have a relationship with the architect-owner, Edward, played by David Oyelowo, who is extremely controlling (and quite possibly murderous). Control seems to be the main theme, not just in Edward’s abusive coercive control-type behaviour, but something all the characters are trying to wrestle with, often as a result of grief or loss. “I looked at it as a journey for Jane, getting her power back,” says Mbatha-Raw.

I can’t say I loved the book, with its nasty undercurrents and excruciatingly unsexy dialogue; Edward is not only extremely controlling, he is also a finickity bore, obsessed with limescale deposits and where his olive oil comes from. But if anyone can infuse him with grace and charisma, it’s Oyelowo, and the calibre of the team – not just the cast, but the director Lisa Brühlmann, who has directed episodes of Killing Eve – is reassuringly high.

Mbatha-Raw, in her first producing role, brought Oyelowo, who is a friend, on board. She was also a producer on Surface, which is being made by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine. The experience of being a producer, she says, has been interesting, “because, in some ways it validates the opinions or ideas that you may have, but perhaps it’s not your place to say, or you’re encouraged to stay in your lane as an actor.” Has she felt unable to speak up before? “Not personally,” she says. “I know other actors who have felt that way.” [More at Source]

  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]

  October 09, 2020
  Posted by Mouza
  Interview, Video

  August 06, 2020
  Posted by Mouza
  Gallery Update, Interview, Photoshoot

Since her breakthrough role in 2013’s Belle, Gugu Mbatha-Raw has made a career out of playing forward-thinking and boundary-breaking characters. As a mixed-race woman unwilling to conform to the aristocracy in 18th-century England, the British actress brought tenderness and toughness to the role, qualities she has carried through to other performances, such as the troubled pop star she played in 2014’s Beyond the Lights and the outgoing party girl Kelly in Black Mirror’s beloved episode “San Junipero.” In her latest role, as Vera in Jessica Swale’s Summerland, Mbatha-Raw takes on yet another period drama, exploring the limits of love and relationships during World War II. As she tells her friend and “San Junipero” co-star Mackenzie Davis, portraying well-rounded, multifaceted romantic characters—most of whom occupy spaces they weren’t created for them—is inherently radical, but also necessary. Below, the two actors discuss the lasting impact of their cinematic love story, traveling back in time to bring women forward, and the annoying task of explaining why they’re drawn to strong, political, rebellious parts.

———

MACKENZIE DAVIS: Hi, how are you doing?

GUGU MBATHA-RAW: Oh my god! I’m good, how are you?

DAVIS: I’m good. Are you still in L.A.?

MBATHA-RAW: I’m still in L..A. Where are you?

DAVID: I’m in Canada.

MBATHA-RAW: I mean it’s such a strange time, isn’t it? I may see if I can pop home at some point, too. I just think being home in a pandemic, being in your home culture, is soul-nourishing. We’ll see, watch this space.

DAVIS: I had such a nice day yesterday. I did a Gugu double feature. I watched Summerland and followed it with Belle.

MBATHA-RAW: You’ve basically been in England for a whole day. You just went historically down the rabbit hole.

DAVIS: It was a nice historical and geographical spread of the English countryside and London in WWII.

MBATHA-RAW: Thank you, friend, for committing to that much screen time with me.

DAVIS: I kind of struggle to watch my friends work sometimes. If I know them, I don’t rush out to see their work. It’s nice to have a reason, because I love you and I admire you and the choices you make. Do you have that at all with other actors?

MBATHA-RAW: I love seeing things in the cinema. I’m not so good at watching whole TV shows. I usually just watch the finale. Like, “It’s great—I’ve got the gist.” If my friends are on long-running things, I’m not great at keeping up. I trust that they are doing amazing work.

DAVIS: I feel the same way. First of all, I hate it when someone interviews me—I bristle at the psychoanalysis that goes into finding patterns in my work. I don’t know why I do things. But I think it’s interesting that you, and there are always exceptions to this, but in a lot of your work you play these very modern women who feel out of their time. You work a lot in period dramas and you often occupy this space of moving the conversation forward, either explicitly through demanding the conversation to be moved forward, or just existing in a space at a time when people would like you to apologize for being queer or female, or Black in an all-white, all-male space. I want to hear you talk about why you think modern Gugu time travels to bring women forward. [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]

  June 23, 2020
  Posted by Mouza
  Audio, Interview

  June 23, 2020
  Posted by Mouza
  Audio, Interview