Beauty and the Beast is very special and unique in the fact that many of the supporting characters are household items/furniture, not “real” people throughout the movie. It makes Beauty and the Beast truly a magical movie, especially when everything comes back to life at the end of the movie. As soon as I found out that Beauty and the Beast was being created as a live action movie, I was curious as to how they would re-create the “live” items. They truly fill in so many blanks throughout the movie as to who The Beast is and why he is the way he is. Not to mention, they want the curse broken just as much as he because they have just as much riding on it.
Seeing the live action movie, well… it was extraordinary how everything comes to life and works. I was dazzled and in awe of it all! From Lumiere to Mrs. Potts to Chip… you become wrapped into the stories of these things/people. You feel connected to them because you want their lives back for them, too.
When I found out that we were going to be interviewing Audra McDonald (“Garderobe”) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Plumette”) from Beauty and the Beast, so many questions immediately came to mind for them! I was happy that we would have the chance to chat with them and really see what it was like playing these fun and unique characters! Not to mention – as a total side note – I was a HUGE FAN of the show Private Practice that Audra was on a few years ago!
Let me give you a little background on who their characters are in the movie. Audra plays Garerobe, the lady-in-waiting of the castle who was cursed by the Enchantress becoming a wardrobe. Gugu plays Plumette, a maid transformed into a feather duster. These roles are so much fun and so juicy to play because you really do fall in love with them as an audience. You WANT them to become human again. You are 100% rooting for them and really feel for them that their lives changed so dramatically.
As soon as Audra and Gugu sat down, they were beyond gracious with our group. They were so kind and so sweet and so open to any of our questions. You could also tell that they both were so honored to be part of Beauty and the Beast. They were proud to be here with us talking about the movie and their roles within.
We kicked off our interview with Gugu sharing with us why she was delighted to be part of this movie. “Well, 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 and tap and modern, everyday. I knew all the words to all the songs. 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. I think it was probably the biggest reaction to getting a job that I’ve every had.” It was powerful to hear her explain this because – here we are – a room full of mom bloggers who would do anything for our children. To think of my 8 year old son now obsessed with things and to know that someday he would be doing one of those things!? It’s a goosebump kinda moment. It was really cute having her share this with us.
Audra was hilarious when telling us why she wanted to be part of this movie. “Yeah, when I got the call 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, so they want you to be in it.’ I was like, ‘excuse me? That doesn’t make sense. I was like, ‘wh–, what? Why? I mean–.’ But, if Disney calls, I would sell churros at the park for them, you know what I mean?… But anyway so yeah, so of course, it’s just Disney, you want to be a part of it, so yes, it’s just an automatic yes.”
We were ALL dying laughing. To think of Audra selling churros in the Park, just to be part of Disney… it was hilarious and adorable and such an honest way to react when Disney calls to ask you if you want to be part of Beauty and the Beast. I mean, I can’t even imagine getting a call like that from my agent! So amazing!
What was wonderful was having Audra really be open to us about her upbringing and her path to her fame. You know, as I said above, we’re a room full of mom bloggers. We all want the best for our kids and all would do whatever we could to help them out. It was pretty awesome having Audra share with us that her parents are to thank for her career. “Well, this is mommy bloggers right? So, it was a lot of it had to do with my parents and my mom. I was a really hyperactive child and my parents were struggling with trying to figure out how to help me. And I was an over-dramatic child and having a hard time in school and whatnot. And they went to the local dinner theater one night and saw a little junior troop that performed before the main musical and it was 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. And they said, ‘maybe this is gonna help her.’ And so, I auditioned for that when I was nine years old and that set me on my path and so I really, I really 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. And so that’s what started me on my path.” There was something very special having her share this with us. It was an honest answer and you could tell she was very grateful to her parents for finding something that would be the best for her. Obviously – it worked! 🙂
We were all extremely interested in how they played their roles. How they prepared. How they functioned. How they made these roles their own. They have a very unique role to play, so we were anxious to hear what their take was on it all.
Gugu shared, “Well, for me it was just so liberating. I mean, I’ve never been offered a role like this before, obviously you know, I had to come from doing some quite intense dramatic roles and the idea of playing a feather duster, I sort of thought was so whimsical and fun. But, also you know, it’s a lot of vocal work in the recording studio and finding the, not just the singing, but finding the voice of the character – working on the French accent with the dialect coach and also just really going back to that childhood thing of like, ‘let’s pretend.’ You know, it’s, you’re not limited by your face and your body.” I loved that line that she said about not being limited by your face and your body. It seemed so freeing to just go out there and do it!
As for Audra, “Bill Condon [Director] is such an incredible leader, and an amazing director. And you feel very safe with him, so when you’re doing, especially the, the vocal work for the characters, it’s just you, the recording engineers and Bill. You know, and so 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 it’s, you know, 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.’ And ‘grunt like this, okay now she’s just, snore this way, snore this way, snore and sing a high note.’ I mean so we just had the time and the freedom to just sort of explore and then they take that and they go and work with the CGI folks and then the CGI folks bring back something… so it’s a real collaborative, it’s a real collaborative effort. You know, it takes a village, it takes a massive village for this one.”
When it came to talking about the actual film and what they want audiences to feel from it, it was really wonderful to see their passion and their hope for this movie. As Gugu said, “I love the message that beauty is found within, it’s an oldie but a goodie. But, I think you know, really for this film the idea to look a little deeper, see the human within each and every person, even if the exterior is something that intimidates you or you’re not familiar with. You know, there’s, there’s always a human underneath it all. And I think to try to connect to somebody’s soul, is really important.” Such a beautiful way for her to put it because at the end of the day, there are some incredible messages to learn and take away from this movie. I loved Audra adding in, too, “And realizing that what you have inside of you is most important and the outside doesn’t necessarily matter.” Very important and powerful messages for young men and women, people of all ages to embrace and always remember.
After listening to Audra and Gugu speak about the movie and seeing the passion that they felt filming it, I was curious to ask my question – What was it like to actually see everything come together? I know for me, as an audience member, it was incredible. To sit there and just be in awe of the music and the costumes and the props and everything that made the movie, I was curious how they felt once they first saw the full run-through of it.
As Gugu remarked, “It was breathtaking. You know, I saw it for the first time just two nights ago at the Hollywood premier and to see it with an audience and people applauding after musical numbers.” And Audra chimed in, “It was overwhelming. I saw it at the London premier and I was so shocked at how moved I was. And I really felt that I was watching it as an innocent sort of general audience member. Not someone who had been a part of the film. And I hate watching myself on film or on screen at all and this I sort of felt completely removed from it. I didn’t really see myself up there, I was just in the world and I was weeping at the end and I was like, ‘I was there, I was in the scene. Why am I crying so much?’ You know, but it was just you get swept up, you get absolutely swept up. You know?” Yes. We know! We know VERY, VERY, VERY well!!
A huge thank you to Audra and Gugu, they were so fantastic! It was just wonderful chatting and really getting a good inside peek as to their take on the film and how passionate it was for them to be part of it all.
Make sure you mark your calendars for TOMORROW!!!!!
Disclosure: Disney Press Trip. All travel was covered.