While attending the Beauty and The Beast Event in L.A., our group of bloggers had the chance to sit down and interview Audra McDonald (“Garderobe”) & Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Plumette”). Both have major sub-stories in the film that will touch your heart. For me, they were just as moving as Belle and the prince, and just as important to the films message. And then there is the music. Just wait until you see the film, Audra McDonald’s voice alone is going to give you chills. We had a great conversation with these two talented ladies, on character development, custom design, and diversity in the film.
Q: Can you share why you wanted to be a part of this film?
Gugu: 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 and you know, it was, it was ama–, it is still my favorite Disney movie so I had a very personal connection to it. And um, when my agent called and said they wanted me to play a part in this I squealed down the phone, so loudly.
Gugu: I think it was probably the biggest reaction to getting a job that I’ve every had. [LAUGHS] ’cause I think that little eight year old inside of me was just so excited and it sort of connects you back you know, to growing up with Disney movies. And then this cast, you know, is just phenomenal.
Audra: 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, 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, ‘wh–, what? Why? I mean–.’ But, if Disney calls, I would sell churros at the park for them, you know what I mean? But any way so yeah, of course, it’s just Disney, you want to be a part of it, so yes, it’s just an automatic yes.
Q: I heard you auditioned for Beauty and the Beast on Broadway but weren’t cast. So, when you were cast now were you like, hey look?
Audra: On the night before we started filming in London, we all went out to dinner and they had a dinner for the cast and everybody. I’d flown over from New York, I was jet lagged, had a glass of wine, I was like, ‘so, Alan. I auditioned for the musical on Broadway for the ensemble and I didn’t get cast in the ensemble.’ And he goes, ‘I know, I know, I know. Is this okay?’ I was like, ‘yes.’ Thank you, this fixes it, thank you.
Q: Every time that you sang it lit up the scene. I have a daughter who’s coming into singing so I would like to know what you did as a child, what was your path?
Audra: Well, this is mommy bloggers right? A lot of it had to do with my parents and my mom. I was a really hyperactive child, struggling, actually 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. And 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.
Q: Can we talk about diversity in the film and what your characters are bringing to the twenty first century and your roles as multi cultural cast.
Gugu: I guess we’re all just bringing ourselves and thrilled that Bill Condon, the director, had the vision to make it such a diverse cast. You know, it wasn’t really something we discussed, which is kind of cool in this day and age, it just sort of is. I’m sort of thrilled about it.
Audra: We were doing press yesterday, someone was like, ‘so you guys are, you’re the first and second interracial kisses in a Disney film,’ or something like that, or close to one of the first.
Gugu: In live action.
Audra: Hopefully we’ll get to a day where no one has to think about it. You know, that’s what we’re aiming for. I’m pleased that Disney recognizes that you’ve got to represent the entire world out there. And that’s what they’re doing. So, yeah.
Q: You’re a new mom. Kind of new.
Audra: Yeah, I have a sixteen year old and a four month old. When I got cast and I told my daughter, I also have two step-son’s so that’s four in our house. When I told my sixteen year old that I was doing it, she was like, ‘oh that’s cool.’ And I was like, ‘Emma Watson.’ And she’s like, ‘oh my god.’ The kids were most excited about that.
And that thrills me to no end because Emma’s such an incredible role model. As I was saying in the press conference, my daughter for her sixteenth birthday and her fifteenth birthday, asked for people to make donations to charities in her name. And that’s what she asked for and that’s because of Emma Watson. That’s what these kids are learning, if that’s your role model, then go, you know. To be a part of this film that’s gonna be a part of obviously a classic and part of the Disney cannon and also be in a film with someone like Emma Watson who has influenced my kids so much is very important to me and one of the reasons I said, ‘yes.’
Q: How as it different preparing for your role for the animated parts versus the regular parts?
Gugu: Well, for me it was just so liberating. 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. It’s a lot of vocal work in the recording studio and 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, you’re not limited by your face and your body.
Audra: You know, you have so much more freedom I think. And, as I say, it’s just play, really, when you get to, this huge team who are creating these CGI characters. I just found it incredibly liberating. Yeah and Bill Condon, such an incredible leader, and an amazing director. And you feel very safe with him, so when you’re doing, especially, 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.’ He’s in there playing, with you in a way. And it’s truly just make believe and 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, snore this way, snore and sing a high note.’ I mean so we just, we had the time and the freedom to just sort of 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, it takes a massive village for this one.
Q: Can you guys talk about your costumes or make-up?
Gugu: Jacqueline, she’s done all of Joe Wright’s movies, she did Atonement, Anna Karenina, 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 mop like, in the original. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that they made her into this sort of flying dove, peacock like, very dainty creation. So, in the costume fitting, we played around with the bird theme, and 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 hear, we played around with this sort of Marilyn Monroe style wig so it was kind of fun for me to be blonde which is just so outrageous.
Audra: You know, we both got to be blonde. But with the wardrobe, the first time I sat in the chair the dress being so large that I couldn’t walk in any regular door to get to set, I had to 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’ and she said, ‘hold on.’ ‘Okay,’ she’s like, ‘okay,’ and, ‘the top part,’ ‘okay,’ then birds and stuff started going, I was like ‘oh my goodness what is going on?’ But, it makes perfect sense because once she’s transformed it 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.
Q: And that leaning thing, what was that?
Audra: Oh, right yeah, because the wig was literally two feet off of my head and so heavy and the dress was so big. So, not only could I not sit down but I could not hold my head up for long periods of time. Tthe set carpenters built me a lean too. It was a like a humongous, about three feet taller than that thing of wood, slab of wood that had a bicycle seat. So I could kind of just perch on that and lean back like that between takes, because it was also enormous.
Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from seeing this film?
Gugu: I hope that people will get swept up in the romance and the music is just so iconic. I love the message that beauty is found within, it’s an oldie but a goodie. I think 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. There’s always a human underneath it all. I think to try to connect to somebody’s soul, is really important.
Audra: Yeah, and also that love, there’s always the love conquers all, love wins and it’s not about just giving the love but loving yourself too. I think that’s what’s so important. Realizing that what you have inside of you is most important and that the outside doesn’t necessarily matter. And I’m sure that’s what people are gonna take away from this.
Q: What was it like to actually see everything come together?
Gugu: It was breathtaking. I saw it for the first time just two nights ago at the Hollywood premier and to see it with an audience and people are applauding after musical numbers.
Audra: It was overwhelming, yeah.
Audra: I saw it at the London premier and I was shocked at how moved I was. 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. 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 get swept up, you get absolutely swept up.
Q: What was your favorite scene or what made you connect with the movie and say, ‘oh it’s beautiful’ and that feeling of ‘oh I was there.’
Audra: I think it was just the way that the entire film came together. To the point where I couldn’t see the seams, you know? And I knew where the seams were but I couldn’t see them. And in doing that I wasn’t able to sort of critique this and critique that and listen. I was just swept up in everything. I fell into Brigadoon along with everybody else.
Gugu: I think it’s the power of the score as well, it transports you. I think there’s just something about that music that is so romantic and hits you on an emotional level that you can’t not be swept up in it.
“Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a live-action re-telling of the studio’s animated classic which refashions the classic characters from the tale as old as time for a contemporary audience, staying true to the original music while updating the score with several new songs. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Oscar® winner Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s eccentric, but lovable father; Josh Gad as Lefou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Golden Globe® nominee Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, the candelabra; Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; six-time Tony Award® winner Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe, the wardrobe; Oscar nominee Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and two-time Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.”
See Beauty and The Beast when it opens in theaters everywhere on March 17th!
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FTC Disclaimer: I attended an expense paid trip by Disney to LA press events for Beauty and The Beast. I was not asked or influenced to write a positive blog post. Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – Lovebugs and Postcards. All opinions shared are always honest and my own. This post contains no affiliate links.