Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa on Jan. 7, 1982 to an Irish mother and Ethiopian father. An only child, Ruth was raised in Limerick, Ireland from the age of 4, and attended Trinity College in Dublin where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Acting.

Ruth Negga, the Irish and Ethiopian star of ‘Loving,’ is a movie and theater veteran. (Courtesy photo)

Ruth Negga, the Irish and Ethiopian star of ‘Loving,’ is a movie and theater veteran. (Courtesy photo)

Her body of work spans award-winning theatre productions, big-screen dramas, independent films, and innovative television series. She won the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of legendary singer Shirley Bassey in “Shirley.”

Stateside, she joined the Marvel Universe as Raina on the hit show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” for which she received an IFTA Award nomination. Currently, she co-stars as Tulip O’Hare, opposite Dominic Cooper, in the AMC series “Preacher,” an adaptation of the DC Comics graphic novel of the same name.

Ruth made her stage debut in “Lolita” at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. Her extensive theatre credits include “Duck” at London’s Royal Court Theatre, for which she received an Olivier Award nomination; “Playboy of the Western World,” at The Old Vic; “Hamlet,” at the National Theatre and “Phaedre,” also at the National Theatre, for which was honored with the Ian Charleson Award, given annually to young classical stage actors in Britain.

On the big screen, she’s been featured in “World War Z”; “The Samaritan,” alongside Samuel L. Jackson; “Breakfast on Pluto,” for which she received an IFTA Award nomination and” Warcraft” and in the title role of Iona.

Here, Ruth talks about her latest outing as Mildred Loving in “Loving,” the biopic/courtroom drama about the couple who took their challenge of the State of Virginia’s law against interracial marriage all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently in speciality theatres and expanding to more screens.

KW: What interested you in “Loving?”

RN: I basically fell in love with Mildred and Richard . I thought they were an extraordinary couple whose love just seemed so apparent. To be honest with you, Jeff’s script was such a beautiful reflection of these human beings that I really wanted to spend time with them.

KW: What convinced Jeff Nichols to trust such an American story in the hands of  leads from Australia and from Ireland by way of Ethiopia? Had you ever heard of the Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia?

RN: Yes, but I don’t think that being an expert in the Loving case is what would qualify me to play Mildred. Do you know what I mean?

KW: Yes.

RN: I think my job is to be a chameleon and to disappear, so I don’t think my being Irish and Ethiopian should prohibit me from playing Mildred at all. I believe that what should matter more is my skill set and my willingness to work.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?

RN: I don’t know what people will take away from the film, but I would hope they take away the idea that it’s very important that we don’t forget those in history who might have been quiet agitators, people who might have changed the world in a way which was unexpected. And that should remind us that we all have the capacity to do that. Even if you think that you don’t, this couple proves otherwise.


Kam Williams

Special to the AFRO