*Gugu Mbatha-Raw defies stereotype in her role as Laura Rose in “Motherless Brooklyn,” she told EUR. In her last film “Fast Colors,” Raw possessed superpowers that were key to an apocalyptic world’s survival. In her first major release, Mbatha-Raw starred as Belle in “Belle.”
Mbatha-Raw’s stellar career has included films such as “Beyond the Lights,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Concussion,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “The Cloverfield Paradox,” and the TV drama “The Morning Show,” just to name a few.
In an exclusive interview with Mbatha-Raw at the Whitby Hotel in New York, she talked about her excitement starring in “Motherless Brooklyn” and why Edward Norton (director, writer, star) wrote a part specifically for her although her character does not appear in the book.
Although quite obvious to anyone who has seen the movie, I’ll ask the question anyway. Why “Motherless Brooklyn”?
GUGU MBATHA-RAW: I’ve been such a fan of Edward Norton’s work as an actor for so many years. When I knew that he had written this script and had wanted to make this film for such a long time, I wanted to be a part of it. His acting is always synonymous with quality, and dangerous actor-driven performances. The script was just so layered, intelligent, intriguing, and a genre that I’d never done before.
What intrigued you most about ‘Motherless Brooklyn?
GMR: I love the fact that it’s so transporting. The music is so atmospheric and it resonates in terms of what we’re dealing with in our culture, abuses of power, gentrification, racial discrimination, power dynamics, and housing. Although it takes place in the 1950s, it feels very current to me.
It’s established Norton’s character Lionel is Mensa material, but when defending you he says, ‘She’s smarter than me.’ Considering the overt racism coming from the top, do you think this statement will resonate with blacks?
GMR: I hope so. I mean, that’s what drew me to Laura. I feel like she goes beyond the cliché version of many blacks in movies. She’d be the jazz singer back then, singing in the club. She wouldn’t be the community activist. Edward created her as a character. She was not in the novel. The fact that she is a pioneer, she defies clichés of how women of color are portrayed, certainly in movies of the 50s.
We’re so used to seeing women in movies from the 50s, as femme fatales if it’s a noir genre, or housewives. There’s sort of nothing in between. Laura is a trained lawyer and she’s underestimated. Laura grows up in Harlem in the jazz scene but she’s a woman with a purpose. She’s fighting for her community. Sometimes the things that make people underestimate you can also be used as your superpower. It’s like a secret weapon.
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