We recently interviewed Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dr. Kate Murray In A Wrinkle In Time. She shares why she wanted to be in this movie, as well as giving honor to her mom, and her passions.
Interview with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dr. Kate Murray In A Wrinkle In Time
During our A Wrinkle In Time press junket, we interviewed Gugu Mbatha-Raw. She plays Dr. Kate Murray in Disney’s new film opening March 9th. Gugu was such a delight to interview. She walked into the room like a fresh breath of air. After chit-chatting about how her day was going, what she was wearing to the Wrinkle In Time premiere, we got down to business on her role in this movie, what motivates her, and struggles she had to overcome as a young girl.
Who is Dr. Kate Murray?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Miss Sloane”) plays Pine’s on-screen wife, Kate Murry, an award-winning biophysicist and the epitome of a modern woman. Working from a science lab in her home so she can maintain a loving and warm environment in which to raise her children, she is devastated by her husband’s disappearance and baffled as to why he left. As brought to life by Mbatha-Raw, the character is at once heartbreakingly believable and incredibly empathetic.
Gugu talks about playing a single mom in A Wrinkle In Time
“Oh, thank you. Yeah, I’ve never played a mom before. I don’t have kids. When Ava first approached me to play the mom in this role, I was kind of like, oh are you sure? I don’t know if I can pull this off. And then I saw a picture of Storm and I was like, oh my gosh, look at that, look at her. You know I saw myself in her. And I think it was really not lost on me that growing up I loved the never ending story and the Wizard of Oz and all of those incredible, fantastical adventures.
I didn’t have anybody who looked like myself and Storm as the heroine in those kinds of movies when I was young. So yeah, there was sort of a special sort of cultural significance for me to sort of be ushering in the next generation in that way.”
“I think some of the themes are actually very similar to me and what I’m drawn to you know the idea of finding your voice. I think the idea that who you are is enough is something that I really respond to in this story especially Storm’s character growing up being bullied at school, being uncomfortable in her own skin, not sure where she fits. Those are definitely themes that were in Belle and in beyond the lights and in many stories that I’m attracted to.
The idea of being authentic to who you are that you don’t have to find validation from your career or from you know the music industry, from any external forces. I think that you have all the potential inside of you. And that’s something I think I would love young people to feel and learn and understand.”
Gugu talks about her struggle with reading as a young girl
“Growing up I actually struggled with reading. I didn’t enjoy reading a school actually. I found it really challenging. I remember my mom whenever it was time to practice reading my homework I would always make an excuse. And she would say oh here comes the theatrics because I would pretend to do something or I’d pretend to start acting basically because I wanted to sort of put off my reading homework. And sort of ironically now you know reading is a huge part of my job and reading scripts.
I’m so glad that my mom persevered with me because I was a really hard person to teach to read. And I found it just such a chore. I empathize with anybody that struggles with reading. I didn’t grow up with (reading) A Wrinkle In Time either, so I got to read it for the first time as an adult you know on this process.”
What attracted you to this role?
“Ultimately it was really the opportunity to work with Ava DuVernay. You know I think that you know not having a relationship with the book you know and I had met Ava you know when –, Selma was coming out the same time as Belle. There were a few sorts of press things. We’d always met each other at sparkly industry events, but we’d never sort of had a real conversation.
And she invited me to be a part of this short film, a series of shorts that she made for the opening of the African-American Museum of history and culture at the Smithsonian. And we did one short, one day of filming to represent Hurricane Katrina in this series of different shorts.
Talking to her about it and her passion and her vision and knowing that she’d cast Storm and how she wanted to tell this story, it was a no-brainer to me. I really wanted to be a part of this game-changing moment really in the industry. I could feel that this, the way that she was going to cast this film, the fact that it’s historically significant that she’s even directing this film you know as a woman of color. And for me, I wanted to be a part of that girl gang. I wanted to be celebrating you know what this means culturally.
Gugu uses different fragrances to prepare for her roles
“It’s a personal thing. For me, it’s a sense memory of getting back into that character, in that place. Even coming in knowing I was talking about the film today I was like oh yeah, there’s that Jasmine scent that I had for Mrs. Murry. Like I’m going to put that on because that’s going to get me in the right headspace.
I think it takes your center away from yourself for a second, but again it’s deeply personal. I don’t want to like completely bombard people with a fragrance or something. You know everybody’s got to do their job. Aromatherapy is interesting to me. I think it affects your mood and your mind.”
Gugu credits her mom for her passion and confidence
“I credit my mom with encouraging me and instilling confidence in me, and she always supported me. I from going to ballet at age 4. And then I was an only child, so I didn’t have anybody to play with. That was how I found my playmates and my siblings in a sense was in my dance class, in my drama group and the school choir and you know. My mom was a nurse. She was a single parent. She worked full-time. She didn’t enjoy her job. I would see her come home from work really tired. And I remember thinking quite clearly when I was about 11, I was like okay, I’m going to do a job that I love because I can see that this is wearing on my mom. And I respect, and I know that she’s doing that as a sacrifice for me but if I get the chance I’m going to do what I love. So I made my hobby my job basically.
And I think I’m stubborn as well. I’m sensitive, but I’m stubborn too. So I think you know underneath it all you know I’m a marathon runner.”
On preparing for a role with a lot of scientific jargon
“Oh my God, I have to confess it was a nightmare. The day that we were doing the Ted Talk scene, and there was sort of a flashback of a ted talk. And we were talking about entanglement and all this astrophysics which I have a very, very light grasp of. It was our first-day onset. And I’m like, oh my God, there’s Chris Pine and there’s Ava and there’s four cameras, and we’re on stage with a real audience. I mean it was a lot getting to grips with all of that scientific language. I’m not going to say it was easy. But you know we did have this wonderful consultant on the movie called Stephon Alexander who wrote the book, the jazz of physics.
And he was there to sort of talk us through in layperson’s terms what we were talking about. We had dinner with him and could ask him lots of questions. We also got a trip to JPL in Pasadena to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, get to meet real astrophysicists and rocket scientists and people planning trips to Mars. That was really fascinating. And then it just really sort of grounding it in the relationship and talking with Ava.”
Ava wanted Dr. Murray’s wife to be more than just a housewife
“I think she was very keen that you know even though it’s Mrs. Murry in the book that we have Dr. Kate Murry. You know she’s not just defined by her marriage to her husband, she’s a doctor in her own right as well as a mother, as well as a wife. And so emphasizing that the dynamic between them was very much a meeting of minds as well as hearts. They’re intellectual equals. It’s an academic household where learning is encouraged and celebrated. It was really sort of Ava that took the lead in sort of that dynamic.”
Where do you find your passion (in acting) lies?
“I like to be stretched. I like a challenge. I got used to being out of my comfort zone I think so I don’t like to repeat myself. I think naturally I have an affinity towards drama and intense sort of straight psychological deep drama, but you can’t do that all the time. And I think sometimes it’s nice to switch up the genres. I’m very much drawn to what the message of the piece is.I feel like it’s you know imparting a message that’s going to help our culture evolve or provoke a conversation or you know provide visibility or you know the inspiration for young people you know I think that is something that I’m often drawn to.”
Gugu shares her other passions
“I love yoga. That’s something I find really is just centers me with all this traveling and always inhabiting different people. It’s something that really centers me, gets me back to neutral in myself. I love art. I love painting and drawing. That’s something I loved as a kid and something I love when I have the time. It sort of gets me into that flow state where I sort of lose track of time when I’m drawing. I love being out in nature and hiking and traveling you know going to different cultures. I always feel like you learn so much about yourself as well when you put yourself in a completely new context and have to kind of have an adventure and explore. And as I say, each job sort of feels like it provides a whole new set of extracurricular sort of research opportunities. So I’m a bit of a nerd so I love sort of reading around a job and you know meeting people that do my job or do the job that my character does and all of that sort of thing.”
You can catch Gugu and the rest of the girl gang (and a few guys) in Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time opening tomorrow, March 9th, 2018.