Gugu Mbatha-Raw

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Gugu Mbatha-Raw 2013 TIFF.jpg
Mbatha-Raw in 2013
Born Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha
(1983-04-21) 21 April 1983 (age 32)
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Nationality British
Education Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation Actress
Years active 2004–present
Notable work

Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha (born 21 April[1] 1983),[2][3] known as Gugu Mbatha-Raw (pronounced /ˈɡɡ əmˈbɑːtə rɔː/),[4] is an English stage and film actress.

Working in British television and stage productions, she first gained prominence in a recurring role in Doctor Who, playing companion Martha Jones's sister, Tish Jones. She garnered attention in American productions, beginning with a supporting role in the Tom Hanks comedy Larry Crowne, and starring roles in the short-lived television series Undercovers and Touch. She earned critical acclaim for her performances in the period drama Belle and the romantic drama Beyond the Lights, receiving numerous accolade nominations from critics worldwide.

Early life[edit]

Mbatha-Raw was born in Oxford, England, in 1983 and grew up in the small town of Witney in Oxfordshire. Her surnames are those of her father and mother, and her forename is the shortened version of "Gugulethu", a contraction of igugu lethu that means ‘Our Pride’ in Zulu.[5][6] a better translation of the name would rather be "Our treasure" in IsiZulu, with "gugu" meaning "treasure", and "lethu" meaning "our", in full then rended as our treasure.

Her mother, Anne Raw, is an English nurse, and her father, Patrick Mbatha, is a doctor originally from South Africa.[7] Her father is black and her mother is white.[8] Mbatha-Raw attended The Henry Box School and was involved with the National Youth Theatre, having been interested in acting, dance, and musical theatre from a young age.[9] She moved to London to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2001.


Early career[edit]

Mbatha-Raw played minor roles on television series such as Bad Girls (2006), Doctor Who (2007) and Marple (2007). One of her earliest breakthroughs in drama was in Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester in 2005 playing Juliet opposite Andrew Garfield as Romeo.[10] Mbatha-Raw was nominated for best actress in the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards for her portrayal of Juliet and also played Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at the same theatre in 2005.[11]

In 2009 Mbatha-Raw was cast as Ophelia in Hamlet opposite Jude Law in the titular role.[12]

In September 2010, she was cast in the J. J. Abrams TV series Undercovers, after he spotted her in Hamlet. The show was cancelled two months later.[13][14]

In June 2011, Mbatha-Raw was cast as the female lead in the Fox pilot Touch opposite Kiefer Sutherland.[15] She had a supporting role in 2011 romantic comedy film Larry Crowne, written and directed by Tom Hanks, who starred in the title role.[16]


She starred in Amma Asante's 2013 film Belle, playing the eponymous historical character, Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed-race aristocrat in 18th century Britain.[17][18]

The film debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where it was acquired by Fox Searchlight. It was eventually given a release in 2014. Mbatha-Raw was nominated for numerous awards for her work on the film 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 in 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.[19]

In 2014, Mbatha-Raw was recognized by Elle Magazine during The Women in Hollywood Awards, honoring women for their outstanding achievements in film, spanning all aspects of the motion picture industry, including acting, directing, and producing.[20]

In recognition of her body of work, she was nominated for a BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2015. That year, she had a supporting role in the film Jupiter Ascending.[21]

On 3 July 2015 it was announced that Mbatha-Raw would originate the title role in Jessica Swale's Nell Gwynn playing Nell Gwyn the mistress of King Charles II of England premiering at Shakespeare's Globe from 19 September to 17 October 2015.[22] She was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance.[23]

Also in 2015 she appeared in the biopic Concussion starring Will Smith, the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who first discovered extensive brain damage in NFL players and tried to put a stop to it, as Prema Mutiso, the wife of Dr. Omalu.[24] The film premiered at the 2015 AFI Festival.

Future projects[edit]

In early 2015, she announced she would be starring opposite Matthew McConaughey in a biopic on Newton Knight, The Free State of Jones directed by Gary Ross playing Knight's common-law wife, Rachel.[25] That year she was also cast in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast as Plumette.[26]

In December 2015, Mbatha-Raw was confirmed as a guest star for an episode of Black Mirror.[27]

In January of 2016 Mbatha-Raw was rumoured for a supporting role in Miss Sloane starring Jessica Chastain.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Mbatha-Raw was in a relationship with actor Harry Lloyd until they broke up in 2012.[29]



Year Title Role Notes
2004 Holby City Collette Hill
2006 Vital Signs Eve
2006 Walk Away and I Stumble nurse
2006 Bad Girls Fidelity
2007 Spooks Jenny
2007 Doctor Who Tish Jones 4 episodes
2007 Doctor Who Confidential Herself Interviewee
2007 Marple Tina Argyle In Ordeal by Innocence
2008 Lost in Austen Piranha
2008 Bonekickers Viv Davis
2008 Trial & Retribution Jenny Miller
2009 Fallout Shanice Roberts Part of Channel 4's Disarming Britain series
2010 Undercovers Samantha Bloom Main role (all 13 episodes)
2012 Touch Clea Hopkins[30] 13 episodes (season 1)
2015 Galaxy World of Alisa Phlos (voice) UK dub, Episode: Dangerous Beauty
2016 Black Mirror Netflix-exclusive


Year Title Role Notes
2011 Larry Crowne Talia
2012 Odd Thomas Viola
2013 Belle Dido Elizabeth Belle
2014 Beyond the Lights Noni Jean
2015 Jupiter Ascending Famulus
2015 Concussion Prema Mutiso
2016 The Whole Truth Janelle In post-production
2016 Free State of Jones Rachel In post-production
2017 Beauty and the Beast Babette In post-production
2017 Star Wars Episode VIII TBA In production

Other works[edit]


Year Title Role Theater Notes
1999 Into The Woods Cinderella's Mother (u/s Rapunzel) National Youth Music Theatre
2005 Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra Royal Exchange in Manchester
2005 Romeo and Juliet Juliet Capulet Royal Exchange in Manchester
2008 Gethsemane Monique National Theatre
2009–10 Hamlet Ophelia Donmar West End and Broadway Opposite Jude Law
2015 Nell Gwynn Nell Gwynn Shakespeare's Globe


Year Title Role Notes
2006 Living with the Enemy Sophie/Various BBC Radio 4, broadcast 14 November – 19 December 2006
2009 Choice of Straws Michelle BBC Radio 4, Saturday Play, broadcast on 19 September 2009

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result Ref.
2011 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in Drama Undercovers Nominated
2012 Black Reel Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Larry Crowne Nominated
2014 African-American Film Critics Association Best Actress Belle Won [31]
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Breakthrough Performance Belle Won [32]
British Independent Film Awards Best Actress Belle Won [33]
Capri, Hollywood Capri Rising Star Award Beyond the Lights Won [34]
Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Performer Belle Nominated
Chicago International Film Festival Emerging Artist Award Beyond the Lights Won [35]
Detroit Film Critics Society Breakthrough Artist Beyond the Lights Nominated
Florida Film Critics Circle Pauline Kael Breakout Award Belle Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Actress Beyond the Lights Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actress Belle Nominated
2015 British Academy Film Awards EE Rising Star Award Nominated
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Actress Belle
Beyond the Lights
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress Belle Nominated
London Film Critics Circle British Actress of the Year Belle Nominated


  1. ^ "Speed Date: 'Belle' Breakout Gugu Mbatha-Raw Fancies Nina Simone and 'The Neverending Story'". 15 May 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Births, Marriages & Deaths Index of England & Wales, 1916–2005; at
  3. ^ Elber, Lynn (22 September 2010). "'Undercovers' colorful mission: bring change to TV". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Bernstein, Abbie (30 May 2012). "Gugu Mbatha-Raw On "Touch" Interview – EXCLUSIVE". buzzymag. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  5. ^ As told by Mbatha-Raw in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 11/12/14
  6. ^ Taylor, Ben (23 April 2014). "5 things about 'Belle' Gugu Mbatha-Raw". Swide. 
  7. ^ "Gugu Mbatha-Raw — The 50 Hottest Biracial Women". 12 June 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Louise Wise, "Hear her roar", The Sunday Times,1 June 2014.
  9. ^ "Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Big Questions". BAFTA Guru. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Gardner, Lyn (15 September 2005). "Romeo and Juliet – Royal Exchange, Manchester". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  11. ^ Dehn, Georgia (28 May 2009). "Hamlet with Jude Law at Wyndham's Theatre: Gugu Mbatha-Raw is mad for it". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  12. ^ John, Emma (31 May 2009). "Jude, don't make her mad". Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  13. ^ Oldenburg, Ann (4 November 2010). "NBC cancels 'Undercovers' after 13 episodes". USA Today. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  14. ^ Carter, Bill (4 November 2010). "NBC Cancels ‘Undercovers’". New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  15. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (10 June 2011). "'Undercovers' Star Gugu Mbatha-Raw Set As Female Lead In Fox's Pilot 'Touch'". Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  16. ^ Profile,; accessed 1 March 2015.
  17. ^ califor123 (13 June 2014). "Belle (2013)". IMDb. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  18. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. "Gugu Mbatha-Raw Will Be "Belle" In Slavery Pic Based On Mixed-Race Woman Raised In Aristocratic Family". Shadow and Act. Indiewire. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "2014 Gotham Award Nominations Revealed". The Hollywood Reporter. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Zuckerman, Esther. "Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller among BAFTA Rising Star nominees". Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  22. ^ Rooney, David. "Gugu Mbatha-Raw to Return to London Stage". Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  23. ^ "Evening Standard Theatre Awards: Full list of nominees". Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  24. ^ "Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in Beyond the Light, premiering at TIFF". 
  25. ^ Sneider, Jeff. "Gugu Mbatha-Raw to Star Opposite Matthew McConaughey in Gary Ross’ ‘Free State of Jones’ (Exclusive)". Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  26. ^ Kroll, Justin. "‘Beyond the Lights’ Star Gugu Mbatha-Raw Joins ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  27. ^ DiClaudio, Dennis. "Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis to appear in a Black Mirror (episode)". Retrieved 19 December 2015. 
  28. ^ Kit, Borys. "'Concussion' Star Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Talks to Join Gun-Control Drama 'Miss Sloane' (Exclusive)". Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  29. ^ Walker, Tim. "‘I love period dramas. Being biracial, I wasn't necessarily going to turn up on Downton Abbey’: Gugu Mbatha-Raw interview". Standard. 
  30. ^ "Gugu Mbatha-Raw joins Kiefer Sutherland in FOXs Touch". HitFix. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  31. ^ Kilday, Gregg (2014-08-12). "African-American Film Critics Association Lauds 'Selma'". Retrieved 2015-02-11. 
  32. ^ "2014 EDA Award Winners". Retrieved 2015-02-11. 
  33. ^ "BIFA Winners 2014". Retrieved 2015-02-11. 
  34. ^ "Capri Award News". 2015-01-08. Retrieved 2015-02-11. 
  35. ^ Riera, Alejandro (2014-10-09). "Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw to be Honoured at 18th Annual Black Perspectives Tribute and Gala". Retrieved 2015-02-11. 

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