Historic Heroine: Ruth Negga Talks About Starring In “Loving”

American history is so rich and vast that unless you’re a historian, you feel like you’re always learning something that you didn’t know existed before.

That’s what happened to me going into the new Focus Features film, “Loving.”

Loving Poster“Loving” is the real life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple arrested in Virginia in the late 1950’s for being a couple. The pair sued the state of Virginia and in 1967, the Supreme Court ruled in their favor and they won their right to marry regardless of race.

Their victory made it possible for people of different nationalities to legally be able to wed.

In this monumental story directed by Jeff Nichols, Joel Edgerton plays Richard and Ruth Negga stars as his wife Mildred.

AlwaysAList.com traveled to Atlanta to see this movie and talk to Negga about bringing this historic moment to the big screen.

What was it like embarking on this journey and capturing an important part of American history, but a story that isn’t widely known to this younger generation?

Joel Edgerton & Ruth Negga as Richard & Mildred Loving in "Loving"

Joel Edgerton & Ruth Negga as Richard & Mildred Loving in “Loving”

I was excited because Jeff’s script is so beautiful, and his team is so amazing, and Joel is amazing. I just knew that this would be a brilliant piece of work. I just knew it, and I knew from that that it would sort of introduce this couple to the many who don’t know about them, which I think is something that is long overdue.

Had you spent time in Virginia prior to shooting this film and what was your time like shooting the film actually in Caroline County where the film was set?

I loved it. But no, I had not. Jeff invited us out for a couple of weeks, didn’t he, to drive around, get a sense of the landscape, the nature … because that’s a very important thing for Mildred as well, the land, the earth, literally in which she was born and bred. You see that melancholy descend in here when she has to leave, when she is essentially expelled. She has to live in Washington. For her, that was a huge wound, leaving that … It’s her home, and it’s someone home, being expelled from your home for wanting to marry the person you love and raise a family with them. It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? I think it was important for us to get a sense of place, so we did that, didn’t we? We visited the graves, we spent a lot of time sort of molding these people and it was very helpful.

Ruth Negga toasts her film "Loving"

Ruth Negga toasts her film “Loving”

What was it like getting to work in the same exact places that they experienced themselves, the jail and the courthouse, filming in those locations, knowing that they had been there before?

Beyond lending it sort of an authenticity, I think we absorbed a certain energy, especially from the jail cell which we went to which was tiny. It was literally a box. She spent five months there, heavily pregnant. I felt like, it helped with a sense of, it was real, because that’s what you have to keep reminding yourself, this is a movie, but this is real. These are my touchstones, and this is, I think it fed unconsciously into our performances.

Mildred is quiet force. She doesn’t say a lot, but her looks and stares speak volume.

I think we must be careful not to mistake quietness and shyness with submissive, because I think, it’s an interesting concept really, because these days, confidence is seen as being sort of loud and you know, kind of like bullying your way into space. I mean, there’s a few people I could name. I won’t, don’t worry. I think, wow, that to me, is not confidence, real confidence. It’s not the confidence I want for myself or in people who are surrounding me or the people who are looking after me. I think she had—and myself and Jeff were talking about this—she may have been shy and sort of self-deprecating. You can sense that there was a steel thread… Steel backbone to this woman. That’s of undeniable, because I don’t think you spend nine years of your life taking on the American legal system if you didn’t have a sort of a definite self belief and a strength. I think also, there’s this idea that we have documentary footage of her on camera, and Jeff and I were talking about this. You do see her kind of like, there’s flashes of her, she’s definitely a matriarch of her family, definitely.

Ruth Negga

Ruth Negga prepares to be interviewed about “Loving”

How was it looking at racial unrest today unfold as you’re in production? What did that do with you working on a movie where this is the story that you are telling, but you’re actually seeing it on television today? Did that affect you in any way?

I mean, it didn’t alter the nature of our performances, or the script, or anything, but I think, you know, it’s relevant because, it’s the circumstances in which you are filming. You’re aware that it’s going on. I think that we all felt that this film would have something to contribute to the conversation, important, you know? I think the thing about this film is that it is about race, and it’s about injustice. I think the unifying quality of this film is their love for each other, and that is universal. That transcends everything. When I see people come out of this film, white, black, whatever, I can see that they’ve been touched by this couple. There’s a sort of radiance that they give out from the screen.

“Loving” opens in theaters on November 4, 2016. The is PG-13 and runs 123 minutes. The performances are spectacular—award-worthy acting portrayals—and the film could be a contender during award show season.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga

Joel Edgerton & Ruth Negga as Richard & Mildred Loving

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