Gugu Mbatha-Raw isn’t looking for an Oscar: ‘You can’t have that as your end game’

Prince Jean-Christophe Napoléon and Olympia d'Arco-Zinneberg are married

It always feels to me like Gugu Mbatha-Raw should have a “bigger” career. Like, with her talent and beauty, she could have such a huge career in film and television. I never thought about whether she really wants that, though, until I read her cover interview in Harper’s Bazaar UK. While she’s living full-time in LA now – which I didn’t know – she eschews the kind of multi-year contracts with Marvel, and she says she’s not hunting for an Oscar either. Maybe she just truly wants to be in good, interesting projects and she doesn’t care about the size of her career, I don’t know. Anyway, this piece was a nice read – you can read the cover article here. Some highlights:

Her film, Misbehaviour, deals with the feminists protesting the Miss World pageant in London in 1970. “I watched the whole ceremony and it’s shocking, particularly the bit where the women all have to turn round to show their bottoms… It definitely makes you realise quite how far we’ve come.”

She plays Jennifer Hosten, Miss Grenada, who became the first black woman to win the Miss World crown. “I came to [the part] with an air of judgement, of, oh, you know, beauty queens but I’ve become more open-minded as to what that represents. I think it’s very easy now to look back and say, ‘Why would you do that? It’s so superficial.’ What’s interesting is that rebellion can often be a luxury… Optics are so powerful: who gets to be celebrated?”

She usually wears black: “My wardrobe is mostly black because I dress up for a living, and it makes me feel calm and neutral.

Her character in The Morning Show was assaulted: “We all think,’Just say no!’ But actually there is another instinct, which is to freeze, and that’s so primal. Obviously, it’s an abuse of power, but I think how Hannah responds to it is very real….What I love about the script is that you get to see the grey area. It’s not saying: this person’s a saint, this person’s a victim, this person’s a predator, it’s saying that we are all culpable.”

On being mixed-race: “there is always a complexity about identity that you bring. It’s not a riddle that needs to be solved, it’s a duality that’s part of your nature. It’s interesting as an actor because you’re always taking on different identities.”

She doesn’t need an Oscar: “For me, success is freedom and being stimulated and staying curious. I want to be proud of my work, and to feel it’s doing something to help the culture evolve, but also, I want to keep myself interested.” So she eschews contracts that would tie her into multiple films before she’s read a script, and doesn’t even dream of an Academy Award. “You can’t have that as your end game, because what are you going to do the day after the Oscars?”

[From Harper’s Bazaar UK]

“What are you going to do the day after the Oscars?”
Post selfies with your Oscar. Sleep in and go to brunch and talk about how crazy it is that you won an Oscar. Call your agent and demand to see all of the scripts in development. Field calls from beauty companies about getting a contract. And on and on. I actually feel like… yeah, I get her point, but also… there’s nothing wrong with having ambition. Why are British people like this?!? Ambition is not a dirty word. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized by your peers.

Cover and IG video courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar UK.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

24 Responses to “Gugu Mbatha-Raw isn’t looking for an Oscar: ‘You can’t have that as your end game’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Lightpurple says:

    She was so good in Belle.

    She just signed a contract with Marvel. She’s in the Loki series. Most Marvel contracts are multi-project deals. I don’t think she’s saying she wouldn’t sign a multi-picture contract; she won’t sign one without having first seen a script and a map of how the character develops.

  2. smcollins says:

    I literally just finished watching the first season of The Morning Show for the second time and she is amazing in it. Her portrayal of Hannah is simultaneously tough-as-nails and incredibly heartbreaking & vulnerable. That she was able to standout amongst such a star-studded cast really speaks to her talent. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for her future projects. As far as her Oscar comment, don’t they all say that? 😉

  3. Michael says:

    I don’t think winning an Oscar has anything to do with ambition. It seems strange to me that somebody would want to act just to win an Oscar which I think is what she’s trying to say.

    But then again, I’m saying that as someone who is also English…

  4. Laalaa says:

    She does have ambition, she just doesn’t care about Oscars.
    I’m going to be severely judged for saying this, but I don’t think Oscars mean so much outside of the US. They are recognized as an achievement, but they are American awards, not the world’s.
    I personally couldn’t care less about them, and I love film. Just my point of view, not saying it’s everybody’s.

    • Paula says:

      I agree. And I think by now we all know that the Oscars aren’t about honoring the best talent and most interesting projects.

    • Lucy2 says:

      That’s what I was going to say as well, she has ambition, just not for that. Which is probably a good, healthier thing.

      She was so great on The Morning Show, and pretty much anything I’ve ever seen her in. I absolutely agree she should have a bigger career.

    • tcbc says:

      But then why live in Los Angeles? She could stay in London or even live in New York and still be in the mix for interesting projects. Living in Los Angeles means taking a greater part in the networking side of the industry.

      And, as Lightpurple said, she just signed a multi-year contract with Marvel. Maybe that’s why she moved to Los Angeles, but that’s not a prestige project written by Vince Gilligan or whatever, it’s a fundamentally commercial enterprise.

      Basically I think she’s lying to look good to English people back home.

      • FicklePickle says:

        Realistically speaking the US puts out more films and tv shows than the UK per year so has more work opportunities, the pay is almost always better in the US, and the US generally has more roles available for non-white actors.

        The overwhelming majority of the industry is in LA and New York is absurdly expensive. Networking is utterly vital to getting roles in tv and cinema in every country, so if you want to do well you’d be best served being on the same side of the country as most of the people in your industry.

        If she was doing theater or musicals it would be a totally different story, of course.

    • Miss Grace Jones says:

      Bong Joon Ho *did* call the Oscars a ‘local event’ , lol

  5. line says:

    I don’t think it’s a question of lack of ambition but rather a logical reasoning. Having an Oscar doesn’t really boost a career, especially for actresses. Many actresses like (Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank …) declare that after having their Oscars, they do not reserve many scenarios and others reserve lots of scenarios but with minor roles or characters very clichés. In the case of black actresses, this does not change their situations in the least because they continue to be paid less and must always struggle to have roles.

  6. AndaPanda says:

    For some people, an Oscar seems to boost their career and for others not so much, but I guess it’s still an honor. I’m American but seeing people of color and women get shafted year after year I know the voting is biased so I don’t put as much stock into it as other people may. She and I are almost the exact same skin color and now I want to try her lipstick color on that cover. I think we all need a post “we survived a pandemic” coming out shade. Wishing everyone good physical and mental health in this tough time!

  7. Jerusha says:

    I’ve loved Gugu since she first appeared on Doctor Who as Martha’s younger sister. Her beauty was jaw dropping. For recent great work, check out Fast Colour and Motherless Brooklyn.

  8. Meg says:

    I think the ‘what will you do after winning the oscar’ is less literal. If your whole goal was to win and you win then will you have any desire to work anymore at all? Or no because you were only in it for the oscar. It’s like checking off a to do list when the goal should be the journey the work I mean what percentage of actors are working? Like less than 5% so working should be the reward. The process should be more meaningful or you’ll be miserable the entire time. Living your life for one moment is just irrational, I always thought this was partly why Ann Hathaway came across so poorly when winning her much deserved oscar-she seemed to put too much emphasis on it and want it too bad. It was gross to watch

  9. Mundy says:

    She was in the movie, `Motherless Brooklyn’ and she did a great job. You don’t have to win an Oscar to prove that you’re ambitious and/or a great actress. I think some of these awards are biased. For example, Jlo did great in Hustlers and wasn’t even nominated.

  10. Onemoretime says:

    Oscars mean little to the average American. Maybe it will get better that Harvey “the fix” Weinstein is out of the picture, but I’m not holding my breath.
    I too feel she should be bigger, she did great in the Morning Show.

    • FicklePickle says:

      Iiii…kind of doubt it. Like, he was one turd in a sewer.

      Admittedly he was a BIG one, and it’s good he seems to be on the outs, but it certainly hasn’t cleared up the stench much.

  11. LC says:

    I love Gugu and think she has made some great choices in tv and movies. I’ve wondered the same thing about her- does she want the big splashy in your face career – and I don’t think she really does? She strikes me as a Rachel McAdams type. Clearly talented, makes interesting choices but isn’t driven by awards (although I’m sure she would be honored to have one). Also as a biracial woman, saying she will win an oscar one day she could just be setting herself up for enormous disappointment. Winning one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with talent, and its twice as hard to charm the old voters if you’re a woman of color. Why hang your career on that? She’s working steadily and is creating a very diverse resume (scifi, period pieces, romance, drama). Her body of work might even be more interesting that some actors who are chasing an oscar.

  12. Caitlin says:

    She’s a great actress. Very excited to see her in the Loki series. Her and Tom are old RADA buddies!

    • Lightpurple says:

      I’m curious to see what her character is. Maybe we’ll finally get the Enchantress.

  13. livealot says:

    I stan

  14. Sidewithkids says:

    I like her a lot. She’s super talented and I too think she should be more popular and well known. Her acting is amazing but I’ve seen and read several interviews of hers and she seems to have a high intellect and carries herself w/ such dignity which I love maybe even more than the acting.

  15. CLTex84 says:

    I love her!

    I think what shes saying is some people take very obvious Oscar baity roles in hopes of winning one, and believe it validates their career when they do, when the Oscars are really no more than a butt kissing voting competition, and its more about your schmoozing than your actual victory. Plus, Oscars are tainted really because of Weinstein, and never really knowing if someone bought it or actually earned it.

  16. shoop says:

    She seems cool, and to say she isn’t ambitious is daft: she’s a well known actor who has built on her career steadily; she didn’t get that from sitting around the house. I’m sure she’s aware of the amazing effects an oscar win can have, but doesn’t want it to be the pinnacle of her life, like people who are obsessed with their wedding: life goes on afterward, but without that one thing to look forward to.