LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:
When NPR final visited with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, she was fresh off a starring role as Belle, the title character the movie is named for. She played Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy captain and an African slave entrusted to a effective English lord. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has considering that played roles in some seven films at the box office and in an episode of the acclaimed Television series “Black Mirror.” We checked in with her due to the fact she’s also in the political thriller “Miss Sloane” out in theaters this weekend. She joined us from our NPR West bureau, and I asked her to give us the newest on what she’s been up to since she final spoke with NPR two years ago.
GUGU MBATHA-RAW: I can not think it was two years because I was talking about Belle. It actually has flown. It really is been phenomenal. I mean, I’ve had some fantastic possibilities. I spent a chunk of time in New Orleans performing the movie “Cost-free State Of Jones” obtaining to perform with Matthew McConaughey and also did “Concussion” exactly where I got to work with Will Smith. So it is been fascinating, you know, getting to understand from those movie icons, and then genuinely lovely to be undertaking “Miss Sloane,” you know, with a female lead. Jessica Chastain is an actress that I’ve admired for such a long time.
SINGH: Over the years, I know that you’ve taken on a lot of roles examining race in depth. You know, this comes at a time at least right here in the United States exactly where racial tensions appear to be at an all time high, I believe, depends on who you ask. But why do you think we’re obtaining so many discussions about race especially in the United States?
MBATHA-RAW: I feel getting biracial is a different experience. I believe that and coming from the U.K. I feel as much white as I do black. And so it’s really important for me to address these issues of identity in my function. But also, you know, we’re often stronger when we function on, you know, what we have in widespread. And I enjoy exploring that in my perform.
SINGH: I ask because as a biracial, bi-ethnic journalist of Latina and South Asian descent, it appears that that conversation occurs so considerably much more in the United States than when I am, you know, traveling overseas. I wonder if you’ve had that expertise.
MBATHA-RAW: I absolutely have. I believe that may be coming from the U.K., it wasn’t some thing I was as utilised to speaking about. It wasn’t really one thing I was asked about extremely significantly in the U.K. For me I believe it is a question of cultural legacy, and I believe that it can not be denied that slavery occurred here in America. And I feel that the wounds of that are nonetheless getting worked through. And I consider that’s a quite distinct cultural legacy to the United States of America.
SINGH: Are you ever concerned at all about becoming pigeonholed?
MBATHA-RAW: I genuinely never feel so. You know, I feel like my function has been incredibly diverse. You know, I am often working on undertaking various projects in various places. You know, Belle was one particular thing a few years ago, but then getting capable to do anything like “Beyond The Lights,” which does not actually discover the problem of race at all. It is more about identity and pop culture and women and misogyny in the music industry, you know, and then to be in a position to go and do some thing like “Black Mirror” which is, you know, once again, an additional period of history and, you know, has this sort of sci-fi element to it.
SINGH: Well, I am glad you truly pivoted to that. We have been going to go there because an additional role this year has been that of Kelly in the episode of Netflix’s “Black Mirror.” You play a 1980s celebration girl in a very same-sex partnership. And, 1st, here’s your character Kelly meeting her really like interest for the very first time. Each women are outside in the rain.
(SOUNDBITE OF Television SHOW, “BLACK MIRROR”)
MBATHA-RAW: (As Kelly) Sorry I pushed you into it. Saturday nights once a week – it is like no time. I get impatient.
MACKENZIE DAVIS: (As Yorkie) No, no, it’s not that. Everybody was seeking.
MBATHA-RAW: (As Kelly) Looking?
DAVIS: (As Yorkie) Yeah. You know, two girls dancing.
MBATHA-RAW: (As Kelly) OK – a single, folks are way much less uptight than they utilized to be, and two – this is a party town. No one’s judging. Face it. If they were staring, it really is due to the fact I am bodacious.
SINGH: Bodacious – oh, look at you.
SINGH: So the episode was undoubtedly praised for its moving portrayal of a lesbian connection with LGBT representation lacking in Hollywood, a lot of may well say. Was this something in the back of your thoughts this – you know, what this function would truly imply in the broader sense?
MBATHA-RAW: You know, what? I in fact have to confess my ignorance at this point simply because I had no thought, actually. I wasn’t conscious of the misrepresentation, I guess, of, you know, the LGBTQ community. And I confess I was ignorant to that. And so I was quite surprised and delighted that so a lot of people have found so a lot of layers to it.
SINGH: Let’s get to the next layer of your profession which is the latest film. You play the character of Esme Maniturian (ph). Is that proper?
MBATHA-RAW: Manucharian (laughter).
SINGH: I would have lost the bet on this a single. OK.
MBATHA-RAW: No. It really is OK, and it really is sort of ironic due to the fact we do have a scene in a radio studio in the movie exactly where the announcer mispronounces the character’s name, which I could relate to so that was fun.
SINGH: Oh, I didn’t mean for that parallel to take place.
SINGH: You play the character of Esme…
SINGH: …You work for the lobbying group that is extremely related to the Brady Campaign which fights for gun manage.
SINGH: Let’s take a listen to your opening lines in the film with Jessica Chastain who plays Miss Sloane.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “MISS SLOANE”)
JESSICA CHASTAIN: (As Elizabeth Sloane) We’re all here to make certain protected passage of the Heaton-Harris bill into federal law. How do we do it?
MBATHA-RAW: (As Esme Manucharian) Realistically, we don’t. We fight as challenging as we can, create a robust base of support, so we have a greater opportunity when they introduce the subsequent year’s Heaton-Harris or the one after that.
CHASTAIN: (As Elizabeth Sloane) I didn’t just move across town with the aim of losing as gradually as feasible. Name and seniority?
MBATHA-RAW: (As Esme Manucharian) Esme Manucharian – nine years.
CHASTAIN: (As Elizabeth Sloane) Manucharian – I’ve heard that name. You led the fight to preserve the concealed carry ban in Illinois.
MBATHA-RAW: (As Esme Manucharian) Eventually, unsuccessfully, but yes.
CHASTAIN: (As Elizabeth Sloane) OK, Esme, why are we going to drop?
MBATHA-RAW: (As Esme Manucharian) For each and every dollar Brady spends on campaign contributions, you know how much the gun lobby spends?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) 38.
MBATHA-RAW: I got to do a lot of investigation. I got to visit Washington, D.C., for the initial time and – with Jessica. We have been in fact there undertaking research collectively.
SINGH: And you talked to lobbyists?
MBATHA-RAW: Yeah. I got to meet a number of lobbyists. We had a lobbying firm that have been sort of our consultants for the movie. And myself and Jessica got to do a tour of Capitol Hill which was fascinating. I also got to meet with leading members of the Brady campaign as well as a young lady whose mother was involved in the Sandy Hook and how that had motivated her to turn out to be involved in gun violence prevention.
SINGH: Sort of becomes more than headlines does not it?
SINGH: Well, Gugu, what’s subsequent for you?
MBATHA-RAW: Well, I’m right here in LA correct now about to commence function on “A Wrinkle In Time” with Ava DuVernay which I’m really excited about. (Laughter).
SINGH: I bet.
MBATHA-RAW: Yeah, yeah. I am thrilled. You know, I did not grow up with the book as a tiny girl in the U.K., but I’m reading it now (laughter). And, you know, Ava is just so dynamic, and it’s just such a phenomenal cast in that film. So I’m really thrilled to be able to get to work on that in the subsequent couple of weeks.
SINGH: That was Gugu Mbatha-Raw. You can watch her in “Miss Sloane” in theaters this weekend. Gugu, thank you so considerably for getting right here.
MBATHA-RAW: Thank you so a lot for having me.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and created using a proprietary transcription approach created with NPR. This text may possibly not be in its final kind and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may differ. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.