Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in Civil War drama “Free State of Jones”

Directed by Oscar-nominated writer, producer, and director Gary Ross (“The Hunger Games”) “Free State of Jones” is currently out in theaters.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is quickly amassing an impressive list of screen roles.

She won multiple awards for both her starring role as a pop star in the musical drama, “Beyond the Lights,” and in “Belle” as the mixed race daughter of a Navy captain in 18th century England and recently starred opposite Will Smith in “Concussion.” Gugu Mbatha-Raw In her latest film “Free State of Jones,” she stars alongside Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyer’s Club”).

In the gripping drama, McConaughey plays the Mississippi farmer, Newt Knight, who rebelled against war and slavery. Based on one of the most fascinating true stories of the Civil War, Knight was an army deserter who recruited fellow deserters and runaway slaves to form a guerrilla army in support of the Union in rural Mississippi’s impenetrable swamps.

“I was so fascinated by this story,” says the actress who plays Knight’s confidant and eventual common-law wife, Rachel. “I thought it was an inspiring love story as well,” she adds. “And the fact that the story is so epic — it starts off in the Civil War, and there’s this love story that goes through generations, and goes into 1948, and deals with the racism of the period. I found it a very emotional ride, the fact that you jump back and forth in time and there’s this cross-generational span of the arc of the story, was very original. And I thought it was very romantic and with a lot on its mind.”

In addition to reading volumes of history books and watching documentaries of the period, as part of her research for the role, Gugu also visited  Newt & Rachel’s gravesite in Ellisville, Jones County.FREE STATE OF JONES

“It was an incredibly poignant experience to feel their spirits there in that place where they lived and died,” reflects the  Afro-Brtish actress who takes on a period southern actress accent to perfect the part.

A historical narrative of a righteous white freedom fighter, the film also stars Mahershala Ali as Moses, the leader of the renegade slaves and provides some powerful moments and insights of another sordid chapter of American history.FREE STATE OF JONES

Directed by Oscar-nominated writer, producer, and director Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit,”  “The Hunger Games”) “Free State of Jones” is currently out in theaters.

Samantha Ofole-Prince is an entertainment journalist who covers industry-specific news. Follow her on twitter @SamanthaOfole

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