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Gugulethu Mbatha-Raw

Gugulethu Mbatha-RawGugulethu Mbatha-Raw MBE , born on the 21st of April 1983 in Oxford, England is an English actress, known for her role as Kelly in Black Mirror, Dido Elizabeth Belle in Belle, Noni Jean in Beyond the Lights, and Plumette in Beauty and the Beast.

While working in British television and stage productions, she began a recurring role in the Doctor Who series as Tish Jones, sister of Martha Jones. She garnered attention in American productions, beginning with a supporting role in the Tom Hanks comedy Larry Crowne, and starring roles on the short-lived television series Undercovers and Touch.

She earned critical acclaim for her performances in the British period drama Belle in 2013 and the romantic drama Beyond the Lights in 2014, receiving numerous accolade nominations from critics worldwide. Was one of the eight women honored at the 2014 ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards for their creative contributions to the world of film.

She shared the cover of Vanity Fair magazine's 2016 Hollywood issue with, Jane Fonda, Viola Davis, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Rachel Weisz, Lupita Nyong'o, Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander, Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton and Saoirse Ronan. The cover was photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

She was ranked as having one of the "Most Beautiful Famous Faces" by TC Candler's list of the "100 Most Beautiful Famous Faces From Around the World" for three consecutive years. Mbatha-Raw was ranked #33 in 2016, #22 in 2015 and #15 in 2014.

In 2015, Mbatha-Raw premiered the title role in Jessica Swale's play Nell Gwynn, an actress and mistress of King Charles II of England and Scotland. She was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for that performance.

Gugulethu Mbatha-RawHer performance as Kelly in the critically acclaimed "San Junipero", an episode in season three of the anthology series Black Mirror, was also highly praised.

Gugulethu Mbatha-Raw is the daughter of Patrick Mbatha, a South African doctor, and Anne Raw, an English nurse. She grew up in Witney. Her first name is a contraction of igugu lethu, which means "our treasure" in Zulu.

Mbatha-Raw attended the Henry Box School and participated in the National Youth Theatre, having been interested in acting, dance, and musical theatre from a young age.

Her credits include dancing at the Judy Tompsett School of Dance, now known as the Marsh Tompsett School of Dance and in 2001, she moved to London to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

She played minor roles on television series such as Bad Girls in 2006, Doctor Who in 2007 and Marple in 2007. One of her earliest breakthroughs in drama was in Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester in 2005, playing Juliet opposite Andrew Garfield as Romeo.

Mbatha-Raw was nominated for best actress in the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards for her portrayal of Juliet. She also appeared as Octavia in Antony and Cleopatra at the same theatre in 2005.

In 2009, Mbatha-Raw was cast as Ophelia in Hamlet on London's West End and Broadway, opposite Jude Law as the title role. In September 2010, she was cast in J. J. Abrams' television series Undercovers, after he saw her in Hamlet. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled two months later.

Gugulethu Mbatha-RawIn June 2011, Mbatha-Raw was cast as the female lead on the Fox television series Touch opposite Kiefer Sutherland. She had a supporting role in the romantic comedy Larry Crowne also in 2011. It was written and directed by Tom Hanks, who starred in the title role. She was also named one of 42 Brits to Watch by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Mbatha-Raw garnered praise starring in Amma Asante's film Belle during 2013, playing the eponymous historical character, Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed-race woman raised as a gentlewoman in her paternal uncle Chief Justice Mansfield's household in 18th-century England.

The film debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where it was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures. It was released in 2014. Mbatha-Raw was nominated for numerous awards for her performance, including two British Independent Film Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film, which she won - and Most Promising Newcomer. She was also nominated for a Satellite Award for Best Actress.

In 2014, Mbatha-Raw also starred as a popular singer in the romantic drama Beyond the Lights. The film debuted at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. For her work in Beyond the Lights, Mbatha-Raw was nominated for Best Actress at the 2014 Gotham Awards.

In 2014, Mbatha-Raw was recognized by Elle Magazine during the Women in Hollywood Awards, honoring women for their outstanding achievements in film. These awards span all aspects of the motion picture industry, including acting, directing and producing.

In recognition of her body of work, Mbatha-Raw was nominated in 2015 for a BAFTA Rising Star Award. That year, she had a supporting role in the space opera Jupiter Ascending.

Gugulethu Mbatha-RawOn 3 July 2015, it was announced that Mbatha-Raw would be the first to play the title role in Jessica Swale's Nell Gwynn playing the actress who became the mistress of King Charles II of England. She was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Also in 2015, she appeared in the biopic Concussion, starring Will Smith. It is the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who first discovered extensive brain damage in NFL players due to concussions, and tried to put a stop to practices that contributed to the condition. She played Prema Mutiso, the wife of Dr. Omalu. The film premiered at the 2015 AFI Festival.

Mbatha-Raw starred opposite Matthew McConaughey in an American biopic on Newton Knight, a yeoman farmer and resister of the Confederacy, in Free State of Jones in 2016, directed by Gary Ross. She plays Knight's common-law wife Rachel, a freedwoman he had a family with after the Civil War.

In 2016, Mbatha-Raw appeared in "San Junipero", an episode of the anthology series Black Mirror, and played a major supporting role in Miss Sloane, a drama about Washington lobbyists, starring Jessica Chastain. The film premiered at the AFI Film Festival in November.

In 2017, Mbatha-Raw played Plumette in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast.

In 2018, Mbatha-Raw starred in a number of science fiction feature productions, including A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay, and The Cloverfield Paradox. The latter film made history that year, with a marketing campaign that saw the film's release onto the streaming platform Netflix, directly after it was advertised worldwide at the 2018 Super Bowl.

Gugulethu Mbatha-RawMbatha-Raw also played in an independent feature film Fast Color, which premiered worldwide at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Texas.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood announced in March 2016 that Mbatha-Raw would star in her adaptation of Roxane Gay's novel An Untamed State - which she will film later in 2018.

Mbatha-Raw was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the June 2017 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

In her own words on different subjects:

"I try not to limit myself. The actors that inspire me are the comedians and the people able to shape-shift into different roles and into different media. That ensures your longevity as an artist and prevents you from getting bored with yourself and, hopefully, prevents people from getting bored with you."

"As a biracial girl growing up in England, I'd never really seen any historical characters who looked like me depicted on film before that weren't being brutalized or playing slaves."

"I think, irrespective of your race, everybody has moments in life where they don't fit in, or where they try to puzzle through who they really are or to find the courage of their convictions."

"When it comes to cooking I don't really have one dish. I'm a very improvisational cook. I sort of like to make things up as I go along. I'm quite creative in the kitchen."

"I like being free to take on any project that inspires me and to trust that the work will speak for itself."

Gugulethu Mbatha-Raw"I was lucky that my mother had a very well-adjusted perspective of the world, and never pressured me to do anything I didn't want to do."

"I try to put myself into whatever character I play. As an actress, I'm an emotional person."

"I was always the one leading the way in terms of wanting to do acting, singing and dancing."

"Different fragrances promote different emotions, and I find that fragrance gets me in the frame of mind for that person."

"But when you become a slave to a public persona and don't feel comfortable without it, it becomes a shield and it shouldn't come at the expense of your self-worth."

"Don't worry about society's conditioning and the labels that are put on you by external forces. Hold onto your true self."

"It is important to be conscious of the message that you're putting out there. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get a movie to the screen. I do feel a certain element of responsibility to say something worth saying with it, as well as entertainment."

"For me, after emotionally intense roles, I'd need to take a step back because then there's the promoting of the film which is another job in itself."

"From the age of four, I loved ballet and tap. I was in the school band, the choir, and all my school plays."

Gugulethu Mbatha-Raw"It's not often that you get a chance in one role to do the glamour bit and then strip off all the makeup and reveal the real person beneath the facade. Usually, it's either a glamorous role or a raw, emotional role."

"Because I had grown up with Jane Austen novels and period dramas, I was very familiar with that period and that world."

"At home, I wear my own clothes, no makeup and don't do anything exciting with my hair. I get to borrow pretty dresses for the red carpet, and have experts do my hair and makeup."

"On the series Undercovers in 2010 - it was my first job in the States, and so I had really nothing to compare it to. The whole experience of doing a network show was a relatively whirlwind experience for me, and I'm fantastically grateful to J.J. Abrams and NBC for that great opportunity. And I learned a lot from doing it."

"But again, like Touch in 2012, everything happens for a reason and I think it had its life and it was time to move on. I've made my peace with that and, as I say, I'm grateful for the experience. No regrets."

"This job is such a gift-to be able to make people laugh, to uplift them, to raise questions and debates, and to have the gift of being able to inspire people or create a safe place for people to heal in a cathartic way. It's a real privilege to be able to tell stories because I think that's how we evolve as a culture."

"I had an epiphany about seven years ago, when I was working on a TV show in of all places - Bath, England. After 12 hours of filming in the cold, I needed to warm up and relax, so I tried out the tub in my room and found that I was instantly able to soak the day away. Now I like to create my own spa whenever I travel: I light scented candles, pour in bath salts, turn on plinky-plonky music, and unwind."

"I insist that my hair be left in its natural state on screen whenever possible. I'm not afraid to have those tough conversations with directors about how I represent myself. Hair, for instance, sounds like a superficial conversation. But images remain in our subconscious. So when it comes to representing on screen, I can use my hair to send the important message to girls everywhere that they can be who they are."

Gugulethu Mbatha-Raw"‘I’m totally in denial about moving here,’ says Gugu, 28. ‘Every time I get a new contract I rent a new flat. It’s not like I packed my bags and said, “I’m moving to Hollywood”. But the work keeps bringing me back. My most overused word at the moment is surreal. In 2009 I was living in London and getting work I enjoyed."

"But since then I’ve worked with Jude Law, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland. That is surreal. When I first arrived it was a real culture shock. I see LA as a workplace rather than somewhere to live. If I don’t get out I go crazy. If you have a little success people treat you differently, so it’s good to keep a healthy perspective. It’s acting, not rocket science."

It helps that she does a very good American accent, so good she even pretended to be an American when she met Tom Hanks to pitch for her role in Larry Crowne.

"I auditioned with an American accent on Friday morning, then I was told I had to meet Tom Hanks on the Monday. My manager had heard Tom didn’t want the role to go to a Brit because he saw her as quintessentially American and advised me to do the interview with an American accent. "

"That panicked me because I knew it would fall apart once he asked me which college I went to. So I went in doing an American accent, then cracked after five minutes. I said to him in my English accent, I hear you only want to cast an American but that isn’t really the case, is it? He looked at me and it was nerve-racking for a moment. But then he laughed and I got the job."

But it’s Touch that could make her a star. It centres on an autistic, mute boy, Jake Bohm, who communicates only with numbers. His father Martin, played by Kiefer, struggles to control him, and Gugu’s character, social worker Clea Hopkins, tries to help. Martin and Clea realise Jake can see the future and links people around the world via the numbers he writes in a notebook. Though it’s already on Sky1, Gugu and Kiefer are still filming the end of the first series.

Gugulethu Mbatha-RawAll of which leaves little time for romance. She recently split from Game Of Thrones and Robin Hood actor Harry Lloyd, but won’t reveal whether she has a new boyfriend. She lives in West Hollywood ‘which is not as glamorous as it sounds’ and on the rare moments she has off she catches up with old friends, including Andrew Garfield.

"I’ve got friends from home and some new ones I’ve made here, but mostly I just try to rest."

And seeing as Gugu can’t get back to Oxford, she’s taken a little bit of Oxford to Hollywood. She’s bought herself an Oxford-made Mini Cooper. A little car in a big place.

Follow her on Instagram

Join her on Twitter





British Vogue with Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2007 Straightheads Young PA
2011 Larry Crowne Talia
2012 Odd Thomas Viola Peabody
2013 Belle Dido Elizabeth Belle
2014 Beyond the Lights Noni Jean
2015 Jupiter Ascending Famulus
Concussion Prema Mutiso
2016 Free State of Jones Rachel Knight
The Whole Truth Janelle
Miss Sloane Esme Manucharian
2017 Beauty and the Beast Plumette
2018 The Cloverfield Paradox Ava Hamilton
Irreplaceable You Abbie
A Wrinkle in Time Dr. Kate Murry
Fast Color Ruth
Farming Ms. Dapo
2019 Motherless Brooklyn Post-production
TBA Come Away Post-production
Summerland Post-production
Misbehaviour Jennifer Hosten Post-production

Television

Year Title Role Notes
2004 Holby City Collette Hill Episode: "Overload"
2005 Walk Away and I Stumble Nurse Television film
2006 Vital Signs Eve 5 episodes
Bad Girls Fidelity Saunders 2 episodes
Spooks Jenny 9 episodes
2007 Doctor Who Tish Jones 4 episodes
Agatha Christie's Marple Tina Argyle Episode: "Ordeal by Innocence"
2008 Lost in Austen Piranha 2 episodes
Bonekickers Viv Davis 6 episodes
Trial & Retribution Jenny Miller Episode: "The Box: Part 1"
2009 Fallout Shanice Roberts Television film
2010 Undercovers Samantha Bloom Main role; 13 episodes
2012 Touch Clea Hopkins 13 episodes (season 1)
2016 Easy Sophie Episode: "Chemistry Read"
Black Mirror Kelly Episode: "San Junipero"
2019 Top of the Morning Hannah Shoenfeld Upcoming series, main cast
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Upcoming miniseries, voice role

Theatre

Year Title Role Venue Notes
1999 Into the Woods Cinderella's Mother (u/s Rapunzel) National Youth Music Theatre
2004 Car thieves Móni Birmingham Rep
2005 Antony and Cleopatra Iras/Octavia Royal Exchange in Manchester
Romeo and Juliet Juliet Capulet Royal Exchange in Manchester Opposite Andrew Garfield
2008 Gethsemane Monique National Theatre
2009–10 Hamlet Opheli Donmar West End and Broadway Opposite Jude Law
2015 Nell Gwynn Nell Gwynn Shakespeare's Globe

Radio

Year Title Role Notes
2006 Living with the Enemy Sophie/Various BBC Radio 4, broadcast 14 November – 19 December 2006
2009 Choice of Straws Michelle BBC Radio 4, The Saturday Play, broadcast on 19 September 2009

Awards and Nominations

Year Association Award Work Result
2011 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Undercovers Nominated
2012 Black Reel Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Larry Crowne Nominated
2014 Miami International Film Festival SIGNIS Award Belle Won
Chicago International Film Festival Emerging Artist Award Beyond the Lights Won
British Independent Film Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film Belle Won
Best Newcomer Nominated
African-American Film Critics Association Best Actress Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Performer Nominated
Women's Image Network Awards Actress in a Feature Film Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Actress Beyond the Lights Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society Breakthrough Film Artist Nominated
Florida Film Critics Circle Pauline Kael Breakout Award 2nd place
Village Voice Film Poll Best Actress 9th place
Capri Hollywood International Film Festival Rising Star Won
2015 BAFTA Awards BAFTA Rising Star Award N/A Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle British Actress of the Year Belle Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
Black Reel Awards Best Actress Won
Beyond the Lights Nominated
International Online Film Critics' Poll Best Actress Nominated
Georgia Film Critics Association Breakthrough Awards Nominated
Empire Awards Best Female Newcomer Belle Nominated
Best Breakthrough Performance Won
2016 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Concussion Nominated
Black Reel Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated

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