By Kerensa Cadenas
April 17, 2019 at 01:32 PM EDT
Jacob Yakob

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has played a glamorously miserable pop star (Beyond the Lights), a flirty feather duster (Beauty and the Beast), and an ’80s lesbian icon (Black Mirror’s “San Junipero”), but she hadn’t yet dipped her toe into Hollywood’s most bankable genre — the superhero.

In Julia Hart’s Fast Color (April 19, limited release), Mbatha-Raw plays Ruth, a recovering drug addict who can’t quite grasp the extent of her powers, which allow her to literally rattle the earth. She abandons her family to deal with both her sobriety and shocking abilities. When authorities catch wind of her powers, the only place to hide is back home, where she discovers the woman she’s always been.

Mbatha-Raw, 35, was instantly drawn to the grounded nature of the script and Hart’s take on motherhood, family lineage, and female power. “I thought it was a really good message for women in general,” she says. “You don’t have to look outside of yourself or put on a cape. You just have to connect with other women.” Indeed, in the early stages of their partnership, Mbatha-Raw and Hart forged a connection over tea, chatting about the film’s themes and their shared love of Lauryn Hill, whose music plays an important part in the film. (It was, quite possibly, the least superhero-ey movie meeting ever.)

The bonding continued with Saniyya Sidney and Lorraine Toussaint (who she describes as an “earth mother”), who play Ruth’s daughter and mother, respectively. The force of creative power among women is something she hopes audiences get from seeing the film. “It’s also about legacy. I think we just look back at our mothers, our mothers’ mothers, and our mothers’ mothers’ mothers. We have so much power just in our DNA. I hope people will realize that you don’t need all of these special effects to feel that you have power inside of you.”

A version of this article appears in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly  — featuring the stars of Avengers: Endgame — currently on stands. You can buy all six covers, or purchase your individual favorites: Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, and Ronin. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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