Gugu Mbatha-Raw shines in Beyond the Lights, the romantic drama that hits theaters next week (Nov. 14). Having wowed audiences in Belle earlier this year, the British actress has become one of Hollywood’s most talked about new faces and she talked to rolling out about adjusting to fame and what she enjoyed most about Beyond the Lights, a story about a love affair between Noni, a pop star, and Kaz, an LAPD officer.
“Obviously, there’s a part of you in every character that you play,” she shares. “What I was interested in with Noni was her journey. The fact that she started off as a young girl who was really talented, but she doesn’t get a chance to develop a sense of self-worth, she didn’t really get to choose for herself. It all really happened to her.
“I can relate to the desire to express yourself and be your authentic self.”
Authenticity is important for the actress. She revealed the actress that she’s looked to for inspiration and revealed that she admires one Oscar-winner who’s found tremendous balance in her career.
“Cate Blanchett — she’s so stunning and statuesque and such a terrific actress as well. I’m always interested to see how she combines her acting career with fashion. She always makes good choices,” says Mbatha-Raw.
Mbatha-Raw forged a strong working relationship with …Lights director Gina Prince-Blythewood. The 31-year-old had nothing but high praise for the director and her approach to sharing the story of Noni and Kaz.
“Gina Prince-Blythewood did a great job with the love story,” says Mbatha-Raw. “These two people started in such different worlds.”
The actress was immersed in the world of popular singers and pop culture for the duration of the filming, with Prince-Blythewood guiding her to starlets that she felt could help inspire Mbatha-Raw in her portrayal of the conflicted Noni. One singer in particular holds a special place in the film’s story — and in Mbatha-Raw’s on childhood.
“Nina Simone is one of my favorite female singers. She’s got such a soulful depth,” she says. “On a personal level, I used to dance around the kitchen to ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ with my mum when I was six! So I’ve had a long relationship with Nina Simone in my life. When I read the script I was like ‘Oh my God, Gina’s on my wavelength.'”
Mbatha-Raw says that they attended several pop concerts to get a feel for the atmosphere and to give her an up-close look at the lifestyle.
“We went to see artists like Rihanna and Beyoncé in concert. We also got to go to the Grammys the year Adele swept the awards,” she explains. “Gina also directed me toward somewhat less-obvious inspirations like Marilyn Monroe. I read her biography. She also directed me toward Judy Garland … who also had a showbiz mom.”