Hollywood's Next Big Thing: 'Preacher' Breakout Ruth Negga Heads to Cannes With New Jeff Nichols Film

The actress, who will appear in Nichols' festival premiere 'Loving,' is the definition of a decadelong overnight success: "I have not been aggressive in my pursuit of being a star."

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.

Vital Stats

Age: 34
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.