Rising Star Talks New Movie, Race Relations & Shedding Light On Two Reluctant Heroes
Ruth Negga has a lot to be excited about. Critics are predicting an Oscar in her future for her new movie “Loving,” which tells the little-known story of Mildred and Richard Loving, whose battle to have their interracial marriage recognized in Jim Crow-era Virginia made it all the way to the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court. And the actress, herself the child of an Irish mother and an Ethiopian father, is happy that “Loving” – which opens this weekend – has got people talking about the couple’s fight for the right to marry, which is still largely unheard of.
“I don’t think is just a black story – a story for people of color,” she told us. “This is an American story. These are two human beings that the whole of America I think would be proud of.”
BOSSIP spoke to Negga, 34, about getting into character, not being surprised by the Jim Crow laws legislating love and what she’d like to say to Mrs. Loving today.
What drew you to the character of Mildred Loving?
Negga: “I fell in love with Mildred and I couldn’t get her out of my head. I call her part of this regiment of unknown soldiers – people we don’t know, especially black women. I was expecting a statue of her. She changed the constitution of the United States.”
Were you surprised that this story actually happened just 50 years ago?
Negga: “We were the first film to be shown at the African American Museum, and if you went through that museum, you wouldn’t be surprised. Because of everything that was happening. If you really immerse yourself at what was happening at the time, it’s not surprising. It was a huge, tumultuous. I think we forget that racism was reinforced by the law. Brown vs. Board of Education, these weren’t things too far (removed.) So it didn’t surprise me that the law, the legislators were trying to keep white people and black people apart…I’m glad it’s surprising and shocking people who may not know that. I think it’s kind of agitating people out of a place of complacency.”
There’s a scene in the movie where your heavily pregnant character is arrested and put into a jail cell. What was that like for you?
Negga: “I think it was quite tough because I felt the isolation that she must have felt. But nowhere near as heavy and deep as what she must have felt. You have to remember, I have a loving film, a loving cast and a loving director who were very aware that we were doing this scene and feeling this energy. We were very very emotional about the moment, because she was 19, (and) her being pregnant. She was there for five days, maybe more, because Richard got bailed out after one night, but they wouldn’t let her out. She was heavily pregnant, and the men’s jail was next door. I can’t imagine how terrified she was…Nothing I ever experienced could’ve been more terrifying than what she experienced.”