Belle is a new drama based on the true story about a mixed-race girl named Dido Elizabeth Belle who comes from an elite family. Struggling to fit in, Dido is often discriminated against based on the colour of her skin. However, with the help of her love interest, Belle finds a way to use her social status to end slavery in England. The film stars Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, and breakthrough actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays Dido. Read this feature to learn more about Gugu and her life as an actress, before checking out the film in cinemas this Friday.
Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha, or Gugu, was born at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England in 1983. Her mother, Anne Raw, was a Caucasian nurse from England, and her father, Patrick Mbatha, was a black doctor from South Africa, but they split when she was only a year old. She was close with her father, but she was mainly raised by her mother in Witney, Oxfordshire. Even though both of her parents excelled in the medical sciences, Gugu excelled in another field—the performing arts. She joined the local acting group, Dramascope, and by the age of 11, she became a pantomime at the Oxford Playhouse. She also joined the Oxford Youth Music Theatre as a teenager. In 2001, she got a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, one of the most prestigious drama schools in the world. At this point, it was clear that Gugu’s passion and talent could develop into a career
One year after she graduated from the Royal Academy, she landed a role as Juliet in the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of Romeo & Juliet. She also gained some minor television roles on television shows such as the BBC’s Holby City and ITV’s Vital Signs. She appeared in a few TV movies such as Legless and Walk Away as I Stumble, both appearing in 2005, and appeared in several episodes of the award-winning television show, Doctor Who, in 2007. By the late 2000’s, she was landing even larger roles on television. In 2009, she gave an astounding performance as a troubled teen in the crime drama television film, Fallout, and scored the leading role in the 2010 TV series, Undercovers. Gugu was not only handpicked for Undercovers, but she even got nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series at the Image Awards for the role. She also pursued her original passion for theatre landing roles such as Monique in the National Theatre’s 2008 production of Gethsemane and Ophelia in Domar West End and Broadway’s 2009 production of Hamlet, where she got to act alongside Jude Law. She even appeared on radio shows playing Sophie on BBC Radios’ Living with the Enemy in 2006, and playing Michelle three years later, on BBC Radios’ Choice of Straws.
By the 2010’s, she began auditioning for roles in larger feature films. She landed her first feature film role as Talia Francesco in Larry Crowne, a romantic comedy featuring world-renown actors such as Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. She was also nominated for Best Breakthrough Performance in this role at the Black Reel Awards. Just the following year, she landed a role as Viola Peabody in the 2013 thriller, Odd Thomas. Her biggest accomplishment was scoring the leading role in Belle. The film has already won awards in the United States such as SIGNIS Award at the Miami Film Festival and Directors to Watch Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and it has been nominated for other awards as well. The film will be released on June 13, so make sure to check out Gugu in her starring role this summer.