Culture Trips

On my radar: Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s cultural highlights | Culture

Born in Oxford in 1983, actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating in 2004. Since then she has appeared in numerous theatre, film and TV roles, including Amma Asante’s period drama Belle (2013), the San Junipero episode of Black Mirror (2016), the Jonathan Lethem adaptation Motherless Brooklyn (2019), Miss World comedy-drama Misbehaviour (2020) and Apple TV+ series The Morning Show (2019). She stars in the radio adaptation of Nick Payne’s play Constellations on BBC Radio 3 at 8pm today, as part of BBC Arts’ Lights Up season.

1. Film

Quo Vadis, Aida? (dir Jasmila Žbanić)

I recently saw this moving story set during the Bosnian war, with an amazing central performance from the lead actor Jasna Đuričić. It’s a war that happened in my lifetime, but I think I was too young to understand it at the time. I found the depiction of the situation and the difficult choices everyone has to make very meaningful. It’s set in a refugee camp, and having been to some as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, I thought it was realistic. I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t seen it, but the ending is devastating.

2. Podcasts

Unlocking Us, Dare to Lead

Brené Brown.
‘She’s been my best friend in the pandemic and she doesn’t even know it…’ Brené Brown. Photograph: Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women 2019

Brené Brown has these podcasts on Spotify and I listen to them both – I feel like she’s been my best friend in the pandemic and she doesn’t even know it. I’m a huge fan of hers: she’s a vulnerability and shame expert, famous for her Ted talks, her books and her social work. The guests she has on, and the conversations she goes into, really tackling what we’re all going through in the pandemic – it’s spot on. She has an authenticity to her voice: she’s from Texas and is incredibly articulate, but she has such a warmth as well.

The Girl Before cover
Photograph: Ballantine Books

3. Book

The Girl Before, by JP Delaney

I’m about to start filming the adaptation of this, which is going to be a four-part series. It’s a really gripping psychological thriller about a woman who moves into a house designed by a star minimalist architect. It’s a rented house and the conditions are that you have to live by certain specific rules that the architect intended. And my character, Jane, discovers that a woman died in the house before she moved in. It reminds me of elements of Rebecca, but also has a Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train page-turner energy to it – it’s a very exciting read.

4. Music

Max Richter, Voices

Composer Max Richter.
Composer Max Richter. Photograph: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

I have been decompressing a lot to Max Richter, who is an incredible composer. I recently discovered his album Voices, which came out last year and has this very soulful, almost cosmic energy to it. I love what he’s doing: beautiful, subliminal, peaceful music, woven together with readings from the Declaration of Human Rights in different languages – so, for example, there’s a KiKi Layne reading blended in with Eleanor Roosevelt. I like to listen to that in the evening, when I’m winding down or running a bath. There’s something about it that’s transcendent.

Chopra Meditation app
Photograph: Chopra Meditation & Well-Being app

5. App

Chopra Meditation & Well-Being

The Deepak Chopra app does a free meditation series every once in a while, where they send you a 20-minute meditation for 21 days. This one’s in partnership with Oprah [Winfrey]. She normally starts with a thought for the day, then Deepak comes in and gives you a different Sanskrit mantra every day. Then the plinky-plonky music comes on, and you do your meditation for the rest of the 20 minutes. I try to do it either first thing in the morning or before I go to sleep, or sometimes both. I find it accessible, thought-provoking and grounding.

6. Documentary

Time (dir Garrett Bradley), Amazon Prime

Time documentary
‘So refreshing’: Time. Photograph: Amazon Studios

It’s an American documentary, in black and white. They say it’s a documentary, but it’s so poetically done, and shot over many years, that it’s really a love story, and a meditation on incarceration and the US criminal justice system for this African American couple. It’s told over different time periods, and you see the main woman campaigning for the release of her husband in prison for many, many years. I found it so refreshing.

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