Mbatha-Raw in September 2013
Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw|
21 April 1983
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Gugulethu Sophia "Gugu" Mbatha-Raw MBE (/
Working in British television and stage productions, she began a recurring role in the Doctor Who series as Tish Jones, sister of Martha Jones. She garnered attention in American productions, beginning with a supporting role in the Tom Hanks comedy Larry Crowne, and starring roles on the short-lived television series Undercovers and Touch. She earned critical acclaim for her performances in the British period drama Belle (2013) and the romantic drama Beyond the Lights (2014), receiving numerous accolade nominations from critics worldwide.
In 2015, Mbatha-Raw premiered the title role in Jessica Swale's play Nell Gwynn, an actress and mistress of King Charles II of England and Scotland. She was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance. Her performance as Kelly in the critically acclaimed "San Junipero", an episode in season three of the anthology series Black Mirror, was highly praised.
Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw was born on 21 April 1983 in Oxford, the daughter of Patrick Mbatha, a South African doctor, and Anne Raw, an English nurse. She grew up in Witney. Her forename is the shortened version of "Gugulethu", a contraction of igugu lethu, which means "our pride" in Zulu.
Mbatha-Raw attended the Henry Box School and participated in the National Youth Theatre, having been interested in acting, dance, and musical theatre from a young age. 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.
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. Mbatha-Raw was nominated for best actress in the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards for her portrayal of Juliet. She also appeared as Octavia in Antony and Cleopatra at the same theatre in 2005.
In 2009, Mbatha-Raw was cast as Ophelia in Hamlet on London's West End and Broadway, opposite Jude Law as the title role. In September 2010, she was cast on J. J. Abrams' television series Undercovers, after he spotted her in Hamlet. The series was cancelled two months later.
In June 2011, Mbatha-Raw was cast as the female lead on the Fox television series Touch opposite Kiefer Sutherland. She had a supporting role in the romantic comedy Larry Crowne (2011), written and directed by Tom Hanks, who starred as the title role. She was also named one of 42 Brits to Watch by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
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.
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.
Also in 2015, she appeared in the biopic Concussion, starring Will Smith. It is the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who first discovered extensive brain damage in NFL players due to concussions, and tried to put a stop to practices that contributed to the condition. She played Prema Mutiso, the wife of Dr. Omalu. The film premiered at the 2015 AFI Festival.
Mbatha-Raw starred opposite Matthew McConaughey in an American biopic on Newton Knight, a yeoman farmer and resister of the Confederacy, in Free State of Jones (2016), directed by Gary Ross. She plays Knight's common-law wife Rachel, a freedwoman he had a family with after the Civil War.
In 2016, Mbatha-Raw appeared in "San Junipero", an episode of the anthology series Black Mirror, and played a major supporting role in Miss Sloane, a drama about Washington lobbyists, starring Jessica Chastain. The film premiered at the AFI Film Festival in November.
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. 
|2012||Odd Thomas||Viola Peabody|
|2013||Belle||Dido Elizabeth Belle|
|2014||Beyond the Lights||Noni Jean|
|2016||Free State of Jones||Rachel Knight|
|The Whole Truth||Janelle|
|Miss Sloane||Esme Manucharian|
|2017||Beauty and the Beast||Plumette|
|2018||The Cloverfield Paradox||Ava Hamilton|
|A Wrinkle in Time||Dr. Kate Murry|
|2004||Holby City||Collette Hill||Episode: "Overload"|
|2005||Walk Away and I Stumble||Nurse||Television film|
|2006||Vital Signs||Eve||5 episodes|
|Bad Girls||Fidelity Saunders||2 episodes|
|2007||Doctor Who||Tish Jones||4 episodes|
|Agatha Christie's Marple||Tina Argyle||Episode: "Ordeal by Innocence"|
|2008||Lost in Austen||Piranha||2 episodes|
|Bonekickers||Viv Davis||6 episodes|
|Trial & Retribution||Jenny Miller||Episode: "The Box: Part 1"|
|2009||Fallout||Shanice Roberts||Television film|
|2010||Undercovers||Samantha Bloom||Main role; 13 episodes|
|2012||Touch||Clea Hopkins||13 episodes (season 1)|
|2016||Easy||Sophie||Episode: "Chemistry Read"|
|Black Mirror||Kelly||Episode: "San Junipero"|
|1999||Into the Woods||Cinderella's Mother (u/s Rapunzel)||National Youth Music Theatre|
|2004||Car Thieves||Móni||Birmingham Rep|
|2005||Antony and Cleopatra||Iras/Octavia||Royal Exchange in Manchester|
|Romeo and Juliet||Juliet Capulet||Royal Exchange in Manchester|
|2009–10||Hamlet||Ophelia||Donmar West End and Broadway||Opposite Jude Law|
|2015||Nell Gwynn||Nell Gwynn||Shakespeare's Globe|
|2006||Living with the Enemy||Sophie/Various||BBC Radio 4, broadcast 14 November – 19 December 2006|
|2009||Choice of Straws||Michelle||BBC Radio 4, The Saturday Play, broadcast on 19 September 2009|
|2011||NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Undercovers||Nominated|
|2012||Black Reel Awards||Best Breakthrough Performance||Larry Crowne||Nominated|
|2014||Miami International Film Festival||SIGNIS Award||Belle||Won|
|Chicago International Film Festival||Emerging Artist Award||Beyond the Lights||Won|
|British Independent Film Awards||Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film||Belle||Won|
|African-American Film Critics Association||Best Actress||Won|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||Most Promising Performer||Nominated|
|Women's Image Network Awards||Actress in a Feature Film||Nominated|
|Gotham Independent Film Awards||Best Actress||Beyond the Lights||Nominated|
|Detroit Film Critics Society||Breakthrough Film Artist||Nominated|
|Florida Film Critics Circle||Pauline Kael Breakout Award||2nd place|
|Village Voice Film Poll||Best Actress||9th place|
|Capri Hollywood||Rising Star||Won|
|2015||BAFTA Awards||BAFTA Rising Star Award||N/A||Nominated|
|London Film Critics' Circle||British Actress of the Year||Belle||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Satellite Award||Best Actress in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Black Reel Awards||Best Actress||Won|
|Beyond the Lights||Nominated|
|International Online Film Critics' Poll||Best Actress||Nominated|
|Georgia Film Critics Association||Breakthrough Awards||Nominated|
|Empire Awards||Best Female Newcomer||Belle||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Best Breakthrough Performance||Won|
|2016||NAACP Image Awards||NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Concussion||Nominated|
|Black Reel Award||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
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