La La Land may be stealing the majority of the 2017 Oscar headlines with its record-matching 14 nominations, but in Ireland, one nominee, in particular, is being celebrated. Best Actress contender Ruth Negga has long been a familiar face on Irish TV screens, and the country is suitably proud to see her named as an equal of acclaimed talents like Meryl Streep and Isabelle Huppert.
Born in Addis Ababa in 1982 to an Irish mother and Ethiopian father, Ruth Negga spent her early childhood in Ethiopia before moving to Limerick at the age of four. Perhaps because she went to secondary school in London for a time – or because she’s predominantly based there now – Negga has routinely been mistaken for a British actress by publications like US Vogue, whose cover she graced in December 2016. She has assured Irish newspapers that it’s an error she is quick to correct.
A graduate of acting at Trinity College’s Samuel Beckett Theatre of Drama, Film and Music, she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Best Newcomer Award for her 2003 part in the play Duck, after which her star quickly began to rise. Captivating early appearances in Irish films like Capital Letters got her noticed by people like Academy Award-winning director Neil Jordan, who wrote a part specially for her in 2005’s Breakfast on Pluto, alongside Cillian Murphy. That same year, she starred with screen legend John Malkovich in the film Colour Me Kubrick.
As well as celebrated stints in TV shows like British sci-fi comedy-drama Misfits and the well-received Dublin gangland drama Love/Hate, Negga followed up her early successes with praiseworthy stage performances in National Theatre productions in London. She also starred as a young Dame Shirley Bassey in the BBC biopic Shirley, for which she won an Irish Film & Television Academy Award in 2011.
The popular Irish actress first started breaking out in the US back in 2013 when she appeared in the zombie horror World War Z with Brad Pitt and became a recurring character on the TV show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That year, she was also cast in the film 12 Years a Slave, which went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture.
Unfortunately, her part ended up on the cutting room floor, but the same casting director who suggested her for 12 Years a Slave later recommended Negga for a role in the 2016 film Loving. Not only did she get the part, but she also gave a stunning performance that has already earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and now put her on the list of Best Actress nominees for this year’s Oscars.
Loving is a historical drama based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple who challenged state laws against interracial marriage in America, ultimately leading to the legislation being overturned by the Supreme Court. The New York Times called Negga’s performance in the film ‘a revelation’.
Also lauded is her portrayal of the character Tulip O’Hare in AMC’s recent comic-book adaptation series Preacher. Culture Trip predicts that everyone on both sides of the proverbial pond will know who Ruth Negga is very, very soon.