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Ruth Negga’s recent rise is one of those 10-year overnight success stories. A decade before her breakout roles on AMC’s new comic-book series Preacher (debuting May 22) and in Jeff Nichols’ Cannes premiere Loving, the Ethiopian-Irish actress (her dad was a doctor, her mom’s a nurse) caught director Neil Jordan’s eye on the Dublin stage. He cast her in 2005’s Breakfast on Pluto, which led to a string of small roles and now a breakthrough year that also includes Universal’s June 10 debut of Warcraft.
Why has it taken Hollywood so long to really discover you?
I have not been aggressive in my pursuit of being a star. I’ve never had a plan. Maybe I need to be more aggressive, because it’s quite tough!
Your parents are in medicine. How did you become an actress?
You know when you’re a kid and you get to pick a movie every Friday? I watched everything. There’s no particular genre that was appealing. I just loved the idea that you could dress up and play.
In Preacher you play Tulip, a tough character popular in the comics. What was your audition like?
I didn’t want her to be this cliched sexy badass or broken Nikita kind of character. There can be a lot of subtleties and nuance in comics that you can miss if you don’t think about it. That’s what I wanted to do in the audition: make her as nuanced as possible and distance myself from cliches that are unapologetically violent.
Born: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Big break: Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
Reps: ICM Partners; Markham, Froggatt and Irwin (U.K.); Principal Entertainment
This story first appeared in the May 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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