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.
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. 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 as the title character, Beyond the Lights as popstar Noni Jean, and The Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending as deerlike alien Famulus.
- Bad Girls (2006) as Fidelity
- Spooks (2006) as
- Doctor Who (2007) as Tish Jones
- Lost in Austen (2008) as Piranha
- Bonekickers (2008) as Viv Davis
- Undercovers (2010) as Samantha Bloom
- Larry Crowne (2011) as Talia
- Touch (2012) as Clea Hopkins
- Odd Thomas (2012) as Viola
- Belle (2013) as Dido Elizabeth Belle
- Beyond the Lights (2014) as Noni Jean
- Jupiter Ascending (2015) as Famulus
- Concussion (2015) as Prema Mutiso
- Free State of Jones (2016) as Rachel
- Black Mirror: San Junipero (2016) as Kelly
- Beauty and The Beast (2017) as Plumette
- The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) as Ava Hamilton
- A Wrinkle in Time (2018) as Dr. Kate Murray
- Fast Color (2018) as Ruth
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019) as Seladon
- The Morning Show (2019) as Hannah Shoenfeld
- Motherless Brooklyn (2019) as Laura
- Come Away (2020) as adult Alice
- Misbehaviuor (2020) as Jennifer Hosten
- Summerland (2020) as Vera
- Loki (2021) as Judge Renslayer
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.
- 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 and Beyond the Lights.