Thank you to Disney Studios for hosting me during the A Wrinkle In Time Event.
I first saw Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the title role of 2013’s Belle. Last year she played Plumette in the live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Now she can be seen in the role of Dr. Kate Murry and Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time.
What was it like playing a mother in the film?
I’ve never played a mom before. I don’t have kids. When Ava first approached me to play the mom in this 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. I saw myself in her. And it was really not lost on me that growing up I loved The Neverending Story and The Wizard of Oz and all of those incredible, fantastical adventures, but I didn’t have anybody who looked like myself and Storm as the heroine in those kind of movies when I was young. So there was a special sort of cultural significance for me to be ushering in the next generation in that way. I don’t get to go to all the fantastical lands that Storm and Deric get to go to in the story, so I really felt like my job was to ground their domestic reality and create that warm, solid family unit that everyone was so desperate to return to.
What would she like little girls to take away from the movie?
What I’m drawn to is 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. And I think the idea of being authentic to who you are, that you don’t have to find validation from your career or from 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.
What attracted her to the role?
Ultimately it was really the opportunity to work with Ava DuVernay… I had met Ava when Selma was coming out, the same time as Belle. There were a few press things. We’d always met each other at sparkly industry events, but we’d never 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. I think maybe she was sussing me out that day, because literally a couple of weeks later I got the offer for Wrinkle. Just 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 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 as a woman of color. And for me, I wanted to be a part of that girl gang. I wanted to be celebrating what this means culturally.Did any of the lines in the film really resonate with her?
Did any of the lines in the film really resonate with her?
I think Oprah has the line “all you have to do is find the right frequency and be who you are”. And I was like, that’s the key to life, isn’t it? Just find the right frequency. Find your tribe. Find your purpose. Find the thing that sets you alight and your frequency, your vibe and then just do that, do you, be authentic… There’re so many pearls of wisdom in this film from RiRi to OutKast, but I kind of love that there’s pop culture references as well as these historical sages.
What inspired her to keep going as she pursued her dreams of being an actor?
I credit my mom with encouraging me and instilling confidence in me… 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. 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. 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.
Was it a challenge to take on the role of a scientist in the film?
I have to confess, it was a nightmare. The day that we were doing the sort of Ted Talk, and we were talking about quantum entanglement and all this astrophysics, which I have a very, very light grasp of, and it was our first day on set. 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 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 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, got to meet real astrophysicists and rocket scientists and people planning trips to Mars. So that was really fascinating. And then it was just really grounding it in the relationship, and talking with Ava. I think she was very keen that even though it’s Mrs. Murry in the book that we have Dr. Kate Murry. 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. 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. And it was really Ava that took the lead in that dynamic. It’s funny, you learn these things for a role and then it evaporates out of your brain afterwards. But it’s great to have the chance to step into someone else’s shoes in a completely different world.
How does she choose her film roles?
I like to be stretched. I like a challenge. I got used to being out of my comfort zone, so I don’t like to repeat myself. I think naturally I have an affinity towards drama and intense, 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, especially something like this where if I feel like it’s imparting a message that’s going to help our culture evolve, or provoke a conversation, or provide visibility or inspiration for young people. I think that is something that I’m often drawn to. And then it’s about staying interested and interesting. I don’t want to get bored of myself. I don’t want people to get bored of me. I like to stretch the different genres because I think if you don’t stretch yourself, then you don’t learn. So I like to learn.
There’s still more to come from the #WrinkleInTimeEvent! Make sure you follow along with all of the A Wrinkle In Time coverage! A Wrinkle In Time opens in theaters on March 9, 2018.
From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.
Meg Murry is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who just wants to fit in. The daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace, but she has yet to realize it for herself. Complicating matters is the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Murry, which has left Meg devastated and her mother broken-hearted. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin to three celestial beings (Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who) who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they embark on their formidable quest. Travelling via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering, they are transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil force. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must face the darkness within herself in order to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness rapidly enveloping the Universe.
Directed by Oscar® nominee Ava DuVernay from a screenplay by Oscar winner Jennifer Lee based upon the beloved novel by Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wrinkle in Time” stars: two-time Academy Award® nominee Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, Emmy® nominee Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mrs. Murry, Michael Peňa as Red and introducing Storm Reid as Meg Murry, with two-time Emmy winner Zach Galifianakis as The Happy Medium and Emmy nominee Chris Pine as Mr. Murry.
Produced by Jim Whitaker and Catherine Hand with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer, the film also boasts an impressive creative team featuring some of the most talented and skilled craft persons working today, including: Tobias Schliessler, ASC as director of photography, Naomi Shohan as production designer, Oscar®-nominee Spencer Averick as film editor and two-time Academy Award®-nominee Paco Delgado as costume designer.