(NEW YORK) — Gugu Mbatha-Raw says she hoped “to honor” Jennifer Hosten in the new British comedy, Misbehaviour.
In the film, which follows the newly formed woman’s liberation movement and their disruption of the Miss World competition broadcast in 1970, Mbatha-Raw plays Hosten, the Miss Grenada contestant. Mbatha-Raw tells ABC Audio that she went to great lengths to get the portrayal right.
“It’s always a responsibility playing a real person, especially when they’re still around to have an opinion of what you are doing,” she says. “And of course, you want to honor them. And I was really fortunate enough to actually meet Jennifer in person while I was doing the research.”
Mbatha-Raw says she then asked Hosten to meet her in Grenada to get a better feel of her origins.
“I just thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to meet her in her home environment,” she explains. “In her mother island, and really have a relaxed way to understand her culture and spend some quality time with her.”
“So it was a wonderful experience because she showed me around the island, she told me lots of stories,” Mbatha-Raw continues. “[I]t was very enriching to develop a relationship with her and also to observe her. I listened to her accent and to understand her energy, and really have all of that to draw upon.”
While being in Grenada was a big help to fine-tune her portrayal, Mbatha-Raw says she ultimately sought some professional assistance when it came to perfecting Hosten’s “really specific accent.”
“It was nerve wracking,” Mbatha-Raw says. “Her accent is sort of a fusion in itself. So, I worked with an amazing dialect coach [who] helped me hone the rhythms and figure out what would work for the film.”
Misbehaviour‘s now available on VOD.