Ruth Negga’s Drive to Tell Stories

February 25, 2017

2016 proved to be quite a year for Ruth Negga. Although the Ethiopian-Irish actress has been acting for 15 years, she’s now being hailed as a rising star. Negga was praised for her breakout role as the gun-toting Tulip O’Hare on AMC’s Preacher based on the American comic book series. And she was widely celebrated for her portrayal of sweet, soft-spoken Mildred Loving in the historical drama film Loving about the landmark case Loving v. Virginia which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Indeed, Ruth’s Loving performance has earned her best actress nominations for several awards shows including the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.

“I don’t think I have ever thought of myself as a movie star, I think when I was about seven, I thought it must be lovely to have an Oscar. But the more involved you are in this business, the more that pretense disappears, and you really get to see what you love about it, and what I love is working,” the 36-year-old star once said.

Negga’s love for storytelling has served her well. Although born in Ethiopia, her family moved to Ireland early on, and the traditions of her new home inspired her. “I fell in love with storytelling. Ireland has a very rich storytelling history. I wanted to be a part of that,” the actress told CNN. As a teenager, her mom would bring her to the theater which sparked Ruth’s desire to act. “That’s how I want to be part of this world. I want to tell stories with, you know, my body and my mind,” she said.

Negga feels energized with each of her roles, and she is often described as a chameleon because of her remarkable ability to transform into her characters. “There’s an element of, that delicious feeling of disappearing into something else and to a different world. It’s a bit like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ really–disappearing down the rabbit hole. And anything can happen in storytelling. And I think it’s a safe way to take risks as a human being–you know being an actor–because it’s a very closely monitored sort of situation. So I think you know maybe essentially, it’s because I’m a scaredy cat,” she revealed.

But she chooses not to play things safe in her performances. “Often, it’s easier to play someone further away from you because it’s clearer who they are. I think if you want to make a performance authentic, there are certain amount of leaps of faith into the unknown that you have to take. Otherwise, you’re not really risking anything.”

Negga’s determination to tell stories goes beyond wanting to entertain audiences. Indeed, she sets the bar high, saying, “When people don’t understand one another on a basic human level that’s the way dangerous things can start happening. When we don’t appreciate one another for our individuality and our commonality. We are all a reflection of one another, and I think that’s another part of what storytelling does: It’s a point of connection for all of us which I think is a very important part of how we’re going to become a better world.”