ALISON BOSHOFF: Gugu Mbatha-Raw plunges into breathtaking role in underwater drama Surface
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is not one to flinch from a challenge. In Surface, a bingeable new offering from Apple TV+, Mbatha-Raw plays Sophie, a woman who has lost the memories of a lifetime after apparently throwing herself from the deck of a ferry. The question is: did she jump, or was she pushed? And who is she, really?
The RADA-trained actress spent hours in a tank of water to shoot the arresting opening sequence for the show — the first three episodes of which will air tonight.
And she reveals that even though she had a stunt double, ‘I did a chunk of it myself, which was really intense’.
Made by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine TV company, like her previous mega-hit Big Little Lies, Surface offers a gripping, twisting psychological mystery, told in the context of an oh-so-aspirational lifestyle — this time in San Francisco.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is not one to flinch from a challenge. In Surface, a bingeable new offering from Apple TV+, Mbatha-Raw plays Sophie
Less desirable, though, were the dosings. “Every week, Sophie would get soaked in a very dramatic way,” Mbatha-Raw said. ‘Like, it would be either the underwater sequence, or a bath scene, or a shower scene, or it was raining or we were on a boat.
‘Water is thematically the element that runs all the way through the show. I’ve never done any underwater acting before and it’s way more challenging than it looks — I think because you’re literally out of your element.
‘All of the usual tools that you use — how you move your face, how you breathe, all the basic things that you hopefully forget about when you’re normally acting — are completely contorted underwater. Your eyes are bulging, you’re focused on staying alive.
‘I worked with a free dive expert, who trained me in breath-holding techniques, but it was definitely one of the more challenging stunt sequences I’ve done.’
In an earlier interview, the Brit said when the going gets tough, she tells herself: ‘Come on, Gugs!’
Mbatha-Raw has recently finished filming Seacole, a drama based on the life of pioneering Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, who cared for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War.
The RADA-trained actress spent hours in a tank of water to shoot the arresting opening sequence for the show — the first three episodes of which will air tonight