Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Audra McDonald have become well known in their field over the years, Mbatha-Raw for the diversity of her work and McDonald for her presence and mastery on stage. Both are now appearing in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as Plumette and Madame de Garderobe respectfully.
Screen Rant sat down with Mbatha-Raw and McDonald on press day, where we discussed what the challenges were in portraying the characters, the scale of the production on the film, and what scenes they wanted to see come to life on the big screen.
Ladies, congratulations on the film. I loved it. It was amazing. Your performances were amazing in it. What were some of the challenges bringing your characters to life?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Well, I mean, obviously you are dealing with these iconic characters and an iconic story, but for me it was all joy just to be a part of it. I mean, learning to ballroom dance, singing the songs, working on the French accent. That was a bit of a challenge. You know, having to work with a dialect coach for that. Getting to work with this incredible cast is just so cool.
Audra McDonald: Yeah, I would say that, I would agree with Gugu that it was mainly a joy. I don’t think Gugu and I were under the same pressure that say Emma and Dan were of recreating these iconic roles. And our roles are iconic too, but it’s called Beauty and the Beast, not Plumette and Madame de Garderobe.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Although… [laughs]
Audra McDonald: The sequel will be called that. But up until that, oh yes, it was just a joy. It was just a childhood dream true to be a part of a Disney film.
You know, Gugu, you actually lately have a huge, diverse line of work. I mean, you’ve done drama, action, and - now - a musical. What genre do you prefer the most?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Oh my gosh. I love variety. I have to say. I think I like challenging myself and being out of my comfort zone. So, whatever that is it’s usually the opposite to what I have just done. Before I did Beauty and the Beast, I had just done a really intense drama. You know, so I was really excited to do something that was romantic and the character of Plumette is light and playful. So, I really needed that balance.
And Audra, you have a huge background in stage acting and musicals. What was the scale like on this film being such a large scale production musical?
Audra McDonald: It was enormous even down to the first read through that we did. The read through was just, you know, it was basically a produced production in a way. You know, the numbers were kind of staged. We had big screens that showed the preface of how, you know, which was a computer mockup of what…
Just for the read through?
Audra McDonald: Just for the read through. So, when you walked into that, you knew you were, obviously, you knew it was going to be big. I knew it was going to be big. Then I walked into that and then I was like, “This is BIG.”
From the ’91 film, what was one of the scenes you most wanted to see come to life?
Gugu and Audra: The ballroom!
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: It was so groundbreaking even then! That scene! And, you know, the gold yellow dress swirling around.
Audra McDonald: And just the camera work within the animation was unlike anything anybody had ever seen.
Interesting. Gugu, I know that there are rumors you are possibly up for the role in Deadpool 2. Would you like to join a superhero franchise like that?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ll see.
Audra McDonald: [laughs]
So is that a maybe by the way on that?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: [laughs] It depends. It depends on the character and the world. I don’t know.
- Beauty and the Beast (2017) release date: Mar 17, 2017