Gugulethu “Gugu” Sophia Mbatha-Raw MBE., born 21 April 1983 in Oxford, the daughter of Patrick Mbatha, a black South African doctor, and Anne Raw, a white English nurse.
She grew up in Witney. Her first name is a contraction of igugu lethu, which means “our pride” in Zulu and in isiXhosa. She is an English actress. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she began acting in British television and stage productions, appearing in the science-fiction series Doctor Who (2007), and went on to appear in American productions such as the comedy film Larry Crowne (2011), and the short-lived television series Undercovers (2010) and Touch (2012).
Interested in acting, dance, and musical theatre from a young age, Mbatha-Raw attended the Henry Box School and participated in the National Youth Theatre. Her credits include dancing at the Judy Tompsett School of Dance, now known as the Marsh Tompsett School of Dance. In 2001, she moved to London to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. During her time as a student she worked at the newly opened attraction, The London Eye.
Mbatha-Raw garnered praise starring in Amma Asante’s film Belle (2013), playing the eponymous historical character, Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed-race woman raised as a gentlewoman in her paternal uncle Chief Justice Mansfield’s household in 18th-century England.
The film debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where it was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures. It was released in 2014. Mbatha-Raw was nominated for numerous awards for her performance, including two British Independent Film Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film, which she won, and Most Promising Newcomer. She was also nominated for a Satellite Award for Best Actress.
In 2014, Mbatha-Raw also starred as a popular singer in the romantic drama Beyond the Lights. The film debuted at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. For her work in Beyond the Lights, Mbatha-Raw was nominated for Best Actress at the 2014 Gotham Awards.
In 2014, Mbatha-Raw was recognized by Elle Magazine during the Women in Hollywood Awards, honoring women for their outstanding achievements in film. These awards span all aspects of the motion picture industry, including acting, directing and producing. In recognition of her body of work, Mbatha-Raw was nominated in 2015 for a BAFTA Rising Star Award.
That year, she had a supporting role in the space opera Jupiter Ascending.
On 3 July 2015, it was announced that Mbatha-Raw would be the first to play the title role in Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn playing the actress who became the mistress of King Charles II of England; it premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe from 19 September to 17 October 2015. She was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance
In 2018, Mbatha-Raw starred in a number of science fiction feature productions, including A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay, and The Cloverfield Paradox. The latter film made history that year, with a marketing campaign that saw the film’s release onto the streaming platform Netflix, directly after it was advertised worldwide at the 2018 Super Bowl. Mbatha-Raw also played in an independent feature film Fast Color, which premiered worldwide at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Texas.
In 2020, Mbatha-Raw joined Disney+’s Loki series.
Mbatha-Raw was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the June 2017 Birthday Honours for services to drama.
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