Gugu Mbatha-Raw, star of 2014’s Beyond the Lights and 2018’s Irreplaceable You, is a part of the noteworthy cast of Disney’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time in a role unlike any she’s tackled before.
The actress for the first time in her career portrays a mother to the film’s heroine, Meg Murry (Storm Reid) and her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Dr. Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) represents a twenty-first-century woman as she is the professional and intellectual equal to her husband Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine). Ava DuVernay’s vision of a modern family, the Murrys, are an effortless blend of inclusivity, equality and love.
With her talent in high demand, Mbatha-Raw has stayed booked and busy. A Wrinkle in Time marks the performers return to Disney, as she recently teamed up with the powerhouse to star in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.
See below for our exclusive interview with Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
One of the things I took away from the film is that some dreams come with humongous sacrifices, can you speak on that in context to your personal experiences with your career or just your character as a whole?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Yes, certainly in terms of the journey that Dr. Alex Murray, Chris Pine’s character goes on is that balance between the ego and the soul. Going out there and achieving your dreams and your career in the world, getting recognition from your peers, getting respect from your industry; there is a cost of that and I think it’s explored in the film. The idea of what really makes all that stuff make sense is family and human connection. And certainly for myself I’ve worked really hard in this crazy industry at times and what really grounds me is the people that you love, your family, staying connected to that, and literally keeping your feet to the ground.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself over the years that you would tell a younger version of yourself.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: I don’t know. It’s so interesting, because in this movie I really responded to the fact that young people have a lot to teach adults. I think I’d grown up with so much respect for my elders as I was raised. And you know you think ‘Oh, when I’m grown up then I’ll have something to say’ and actually as we’re seeing in the world today young people have a very pure and truthful voice at times uncluttered by their social conditioning and sometimes your instincts are always right, and I think that’s probably what I would tell my young self; who you are is enough and if it feels right it is and if it does not feel right, it’s probably not quite right, and to listen to that.
This is your first role as a mother. How does this experience differ from your other roles in your acting as you’re surrounded by a principal cast of younger people?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: It’s been really interesting and inspiring to see Storm, Deric and Levi, these incredibly articulate and bright and free young people. I’ve learned a lot from working with them. I think that there is a certain truthful quality that comes with youth, and just trying to access that and remember that in a child myself has been this sense of curiosity and wonder like ‘Isn’t this cool we get to pretend.’ or ‘We’re pretending or we’re playing today,’ and that certainly from Deric who was only eight years old when we were shooting. His energy is just so infectious, so I learned a lot from working with them.
Earlier in the press conference you spoke about the fact that you always played pretend and Land of Make Believe was very big while you were growing up. Can you tell us about any of the characters that you would embody growing up?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Oh my God; I mean I was always putting on shows in my living room to my mom. You know, whatever it was, from getting my friends to dress up and perform poems or recording a radio show on a cassette tape when I was like eight. I was always doing people’s accents or different voices. My first actual role on stage in an actual production was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and that was when I was eleven. Actually there’s a lot of similarities with The Wizard of Oz and this, in terms of starting in the house, going off into this magical technicolor land and then coming back home and realizing you have what you need at your front door and that was really interesting to me. Yes, and I loved dancing and showing off basically, any chance to get more attention. But also I was an only child so I got my siblings from my theatre friends, and that was my tribe growing up and I really held onto that.
Speaking of tribes and being an only child, watching this, there’s a heavy theme in regards to the power of siblings and what that’s like. Speaking from the perspective of an only child, what do you take away from that?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: You know it’s really interesting; I always wanted an older brother and I look at the bond that you know – Charles Wallace is adopted in the movie as well, that’s another nuance that I think Ava wanted to bring into the story that it was a modern family and that was just so. It wasn’t commented on, it wasn’t a problem, it wasn’t an issue it was just – It is. And for me it’s really a story about the power of love. Family love, sibling love, parental love, and love itself. I think Meg needs to learn to be comfortable in her own skin to love herself, to see light in herself before she can empower anybody else. And once she sees that and plugs into that in her self, it’s such a flight, her potential, it’s infinite.
There’s a ton of messages in this film and different themes; what is something that spoke directly to you?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: There’s a line [where] Oprah says, “All you have to do is find the right frequency and be who you are.” And that to me is the key to life. I feel like it is simplicity. “Find the right frequency,” to me that translates to: Find your tribe. Find your purpose. Find what you love to do, what makes you vibrate with excitement. Find your frequency and do that, be who you are, be authentic. Do that thing that makes you feel alive. And that to me is such a powerful message. Sometimes it takes a minute to find your frequency, but once you do, hold onto it.
Alright so I’m just going to just ask you a bunch of questions and you can just end sentences with whatever comes to mind.
So young people will see this and…
Go on an epic adventure about love and family and being a warrior!
Working with Ava DuVernay is like…
A beautiful family experience with lots of hugs, and laughter, and love.
My real life super power is my ability to…
Stay optimistic about our world, and keep hope for why we’re all here.
10 years from now I would want my body of work to be described as…
Helping our culture to evolve.
If “it” was a person or thing, what would it be?
I think everybody has their own, “it.” I think that it can be translated in many ways; I think the “it” is fear.
The film hits theaters this Friday.