Actress plays lover of Gemma Arterton in period drama.

By Clark Collis
July 27, 2020 at 10:37 AM EDT

Black Mirror and The Morning Show actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the former lover of Gemma Arterton's reclusive writer in the World War II-set drama Summerland, which is released in select theaters and VOD on Friday.

"My character mostly exists in a flashbacks in a different period," says Mbatha-Raw. "I’d never done anything in the ‘20s before, which is when my character is first introduced and that was just really fun. Because the story is from Gemma’s perspective, looking back on that time, I could actually really enjoy and relish the joy and exuberance of that period, knowing that I didn’t have to play all the other stuff that goes on in Gemma’s life later. It was liberating because the '20s are such a free period although obviously what they go through in their relationship is complicated."

Below, Mbatha-Raw talks more about Summerland and her rather different upcoming small screen project: Loki.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved in Summerland?

GUGU MBATHA-RAW: Well, I knew the filmmaker, Jessica Swale. I worked with her in theater and I’ve known her for a long time. We actually did the play Nell Gwynn at the Globe Theatre, which Gemma Arterton also did later in the West End. So, it’s a funny circle of life in that we all got to work together on this. I knew that this was Jess’s film debut, and I’d read the script, and I just thought it was such an original story. I loved that it was a period piece but the themes felt so modern. I just thought it was really refreshing.

Did you have a shorthand with Jess?

Oh, definitely, definitely. She’s one of my dearest friends, even though we haven’t worked a lot together. We first met on our first job out of drama school, I was playing Celia in As You Like It and she was assisting the director. We definitely have a short-hand from that relationship, so that was really special.

What has it been like promoting the film in lockdown?

I think we’re all adapting to the moment, aren’t we? We were able to take part a virtual Q&A for an LGBTQ film festival in San Francisco, Frameline, which was really special. I’m here in L.A. and Jess and Gemma are in London and we know each other so well, it was just lovely. I think  it would be strange if you didn't know people so well, but because we’re such good friends as well, it doesn’t feel as clunky as it might feel doing these virtual things with people that you worked with for a couple of days a year ago or whatever. So, yeah, I’m definitely grateful for the shorthand and those friendships in light of everything being virtual this year.

Michael Wharley

What were you working on when things shut down?

Well, a couple of things. I had actually just come back from London. I was doing promotion for Misbehavior, the film about the Miss World competition that was coming out on Friday the 13th, which, we should have known, was the day that everything started to really shutdown in March. But I was in London doing a regular junket and press and a proper premiere for that and then I flew back to America and to Atlanta, where I’d just started work on Loki, which is the Marvel limited series for Disney+. So, it was quite a jolt, as it was for everybody, just to pause on all of those things and just stay in my house. But I’m still hopeful that we will pick up that show when it’s safe to do so.

Can you say anything else about Loki?

Oh, I wish, I wish I could. But, no, my lips are sealed. I mean, obviously, it’s based on Tom Hiddleston’s character from the Thor film. But I can’t really divulge anymore at this point. [Laughs]

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