Gugu Mbatha-Raw Takes a Bow with ‘Belle’

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Gugu Mbatha-RawGugu Mbatha-Raw, 31, finds her breakthrough role in “Belle” as Dido, the mixed-race daughter of an English aristocrat in late-18th-century Britain.

You might know her: From Tom Hanks’ “Larry Crowne” or Fox’s “Touch” opposite Kiefer Sutherland.

Her first name: Her English mother and South African father named her Gugulethu (Gugu for short), which is Zulu for “our pride.” The actress says she can’t speak a word of Zulu.

How she got here: “I started with dance when I was about 4. Youth thea­ter from when I was 11 and then RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) for three years of classical training. After came several years doing Shakespeare, plays and TV in London and the UK. ‘Hamlet’ with Jude Law on Broadway brought me here to the U.S. All the while, I was aware of ‘Belle’ as a project.”

On 18th century realism: “Growing up in the UK, this Jane Austen world was almost part of my DNA. You work at drama school to make this formal language sound natural. For me, the costume was Dido, who was brought up as a Georgian lady. With the corset, the first 20 minutes I felt really hot as my organs readjusted, but your posture completely changes and so does your breathing. I couldn’t even do my shoes because you could not bend over. It makes you realize what it was like to be a woman in that society, how constrained and controlled. And we had etiquette classes, where I learned I’ve been eating soup the ‘wrong’ way my whole life!”

What’s next: “Jupiter Ascending” in July as a half deer/half woman for the Wachowskis. “They are so ambitious telling these cosmic stories, I relished the challenge. After ‘Belle,’ I wanted something completely different.”

Read original article and view trailer at Boston Herald.