Beauty and the Beast Interview with Audra McDonald & Gugu Mbatha-Raw

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Last week, I got to meet a ton of the cast from Beauty and the Beast. A group of 25 blogger sat down with the actors and filmmakers from the film to discuss their experiences. One of my favorite interviews was with Audra McDonald & Gugu Mbatha-Raw. They were human for part of the film and then played an object in the cursed castle for the other part of the film. Beauty and the Beast is going to be theaters starting tomorrow. I’m Sure you’ll fall in love with it like I did.

Gugu shared the favorite part of working with Beauty and the Beast. “For me I was obsessed with the original Disney film. It came out when I was eight years old, I had the cassette tape, made my mom play in the car on the way to ballet, tap and modern, everyday.  I knew all the words to all the songs and it was amazing. It is still my favorite Disney movie so I had a very personal connection to it. When my agent called and said they wanted me to play a part in this I squealed down the phone, so loudly. It was probably the biggest reaction to getting a job that I’ve every had. That little eight year old inside of me was just so excited and t sort of connects you back to growing up with Disney movies. This cast is just phenomenal.

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Thanks to Coralie of Lovebugs and Postcards for the photos. 

Disney Is an Automatic Yes

Audra talks about when she got the call saying she was in the movie. “When I got the, the call I, I’d known that the movie was being made and I was excited about it and my agent called and he said, ‘so, Beauty and the Beast,’ he’s like, ‘yeah, they’re turning into this, isn’t that great?’ he’s like, ‘yeah, so they want you to be in it.’ I was like, ‘excuse me? That doesn’t make sense. I was like, ‘what? Why?’ If Disney calls, I would sell churros at the park for them, you know what I mean? It’s Disney, you want to be a part of it, so yes, it’s just an automatic yes.” I totally know what she means. When my friends have gotten invites from Disney, I told them pretty much the same thing. When Disney calls you say yes.

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Audra’s Amazing Singing

Audra has an amazing voice that brings so much to the film. “I was a really hyperactive child having, struggling, actually and my parents were struggling with trying to figure out how to, how to help me. And I was an overdramatic child and having a hard time in school and whatnot. They went to the local dinner theater one night and saw a little junior troop that performed before the main musical and it was kid, a group of kids. I loved to sing at home and all that stuff and I had all this extra energy and drama inside of me. They said, ‘maybe this is gonna help her.’ So, I auditioned for that when I was nine years old and that set me on my path and so I have my parents to thank for looking for something that would be right for me to express who I was and find a way to channel that energy. That’s what started me on my path.


Multicultural Cast

Gugu talks about the multicultural cast.  They were thrilled that Bill Condon, the director, had the vision to make it such a diverse cast. It  wasn’t really something we discussed, you know, which is cool in this day and age, it just sort of is. I’m thrilled about it. We were doing press yesterday, someone was like, ‘so you guys are, you’re the first and second interracial kisses in a Disney in live action. We didn’t even think about it.


Being an Object vs. Being Human

Gugu describes it as literating being animated by CGI. I’ve come from doing some quite intense dramatic roles and the idea of playing a feather duster was so whimsical and fun. But, it’s a lot of vocal work in the recording studio and finding the voice of the character, working on the French accent with the dialect coach and going back to that childhood thing of like, ‘let’s pretend.’ You’re not limited by your face and your body.


Audra chimes in to talk about working with Bill Condon, the Director of Beauty and the Beast. “Bill Condon is an incredible leader, and an amazing director. You feel very safe with him, so when you’re doing the vocal work for the characters, it’s just you, the recording engineers and Bill. Bill’s in there with you and he’s saying, ‘okay, now try one like this.’ So, he’s in there playing, you know, with you in a way. And it’s truly just make believe and so for the wardrobe it was like, ‘okay, she’s kind of trying to get to the staircase at this point so, grunt a little bit.’  ‘grunt like this, okay now she’s just, snore this way, snore this way, snore and sing a high note.’ We had the time and the freedom to explore and then they take that, they go and work with the CGI folks and then the CGI folks bring back something. It’s a real collaborative effort. It takes a village and it takes a massive village for this one.”

Feather Duster

Gugu talks about becoming a feather duster. “Jacqueline Durran is an incredible costume designer. On my first costume fitting, she said, ‘okay, would you like to meet your object?’ In the room, they had the feather duster on a stand and I was kind of taken aback because Flumette is quite different to the feather duster Fifi, who’s more sort of mopped like, in the original. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they made her into this sort of flying dove like peacock, a very dainty creation. So, in the costume fitting, we played around with the bird theme. I had a big tail feather on one of my costumes, a huge bustle which also worked with the period. And feathers, I had feathers in my hair. we played around with this sort of Marilyn Monroe style wig so it was kind of fun for me to blonde which is just so outrageous and audacious.”

Lumiere, the candelabra, is smitten with Plumette, the feather duster, in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic which is a celebration of one of the most beloved stories ever told.
Lumiere, the candelabra, is smitten with Plumette, the feather duster, in Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic which is a celebration of one of the most beloved stories ever told.

The Wardrobe Wig

Audra talks about wearing the huge French hair. “We both got to be blonde. But with the wardrobe, the first time I sat in the chair and the dress being so large that I couldn’t walk in any regular door to get to set, I had walk sideways and scrunch because once they started putting the wig on, they put the first part and I was like, ‘wow, that’s big, that’s tall’” Apparently this wig had 3 tiers and then they started adding in the birds. “I was like ‘oh my goodness what is going on?’ But, it makes perfect sense because once she’s transformed to the wardrobe, the top of the wardrobe if you notice is her wig. You couldn’t even see them, but this is the detail that Disney pays attention too. The shoes that I wore were the feet of the wardrobe, so if you’d actually seen my shoes, they curled up into the exact sort of way that the legs of the wardrobe and all of that. I mean and even within the design of like our make up and all of it is echoed in our objects. The wig was literally two feet off of my head and so heavy and the dress was so big. Not only could I not sit down but I could not hold my head up for long periods of time. So, the set carpenters built me a lean tool.” In between scenes Audra would lean on between takes.

More Beauty and the Beast



Belle (Emma Watson) learns that the Beast's castle is enchanted in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, directed by Bill Condon.
Belle (Emma Watson) learns that the Beast’s castle is enchanted in Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, directed by Bill Condon.

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This is blog post is sponsored in exchange for an all-expense paid trip from Disney. However, as always, all experiences and opinions are my own.

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