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Creator / Gugu Mbatha-Raw

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"I'd rather feel free to express myself than feel like I was doing something for the money, than feel like I'd sold out and my soul had withered in the process."

Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw, MBE (born 21 April 1983 in Oxford, England), better known as Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is an English actor, born in Oxford, England to a black South African father and white English mother. Her father, a student activist with the African National Congress, had to flee South Africa for opposing apartheid, coming to England where he met her mother.

Mbatha-Raw got her start in British television, appearing on the BBC's Doctor Who as Tish Jones, younger sister to Freema Agyeman's companion Martha Jones, in one of her earliest roles. She later broke into American television, starring on NBC's Undercovers and FOX's Touch (2012). In 2016, she appeared in the Black Mirror: San Junipero episode of Netflix's Black Mirror. She has since gone on to appear in several other Netflix projects, including The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Her prominence in films has seen a rise in promise during The New '10s, with Mbatha-Raw appearing in high-profile projects like 2013's biopic Belle (2013) as the title character, Beyond the Lights as popstar Noni Jean, and The Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending as deerlike alien Famulus.

She also appears in Disney's 2017 live-action Beauty and the Beast and Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time.

Selected filmography

Tropes associated with her work:

  • Actor-Shared Background: She has a black father and white mother. Her characters Noni in Beyond the Lights, Ruth (Fast Color) and Dido (Belle) have the same ancestry (though with the parents' races being reversed in the latter two). In fact, so far now whenever her characters' background has been shown, it matches hers (at least aside from their parents' specific races, except in Bonekickers and Beyond the Lights with Vic and Noni respectively, whose ancestry was the same). This may have been her request, as she's explicit in identifying as a biracial woman. In all of those cases though, at least one of her parents is absent or even dead. Unlike her film alter egos, however, Mbatha-Raw enjoys close, very healthy relationships with both of her parents (per her interviews, her father has always played a very active role in her life and her parents both remain on such friendly terms with one another that the three of them often will do things together as a family).
  • Dyeing for Your Art: She tries to AVERT this whenever possible. A character's hairstyle "Really has to support the story" in order for her to agree to change up her curly, black tresses. She wants to "send the important message to girls everywhere that they can be who they are".
  • Fake Nationality: Though Mbatha-Raw is English, most of her characters are Americans or other non-British nationalities.
  • I Am Very British: Her natural accent is Received Pronunciation, so if she plays an English character it makes them come off as posh.
  • Promoted Fangirl:
    • Growing up, she was a HUGE fan of the original animated Beauty and the Beast (to the point that she knew the film's entire soundtrack by heart!). So when her agent called to tell her that Disney wanted her to play Plumette in the live-action remake, she was so excited that she "literally squealed down the phone line"!
    • She's also been a major fan of Jim Henson's work since she was a little girl and has described being cast as Seladon in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance as "a childhood dream come true".
  • Separated-at-Birth Casting: In Black Mirror: San Junipero. She and Denise Burse, who plays the elder version of her character, Kelly, could EASILY pass for mother and daughter (in fact, the two look SO similar that writer/show creator Charlie Brooker has had people approach him thinking that "elder Kelly" was Mbatha-Raw in old-age makeup and prosthetics!).
  • Star-Making Role: She was virtually unknown to American audiences prior to landing the lead roles in Belle (2013) and Beyond the Lights.


Video Example(s):


Noni's True Hair

In a truly expository scene that includes no words, Noni takes out her dyed weave and shows her true hair.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExpositoryHairstyleChange

Media sources: