Ruth Negga • Actress
by Annika Pham
02/02/2006 - Formally trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre at Trinity College in Dublin where she graduated in Acting Studies, Ruth Negga has won critical acclaim for her varied roles in many classic and contemporary stage productions. Her screen debut was in Ciarán O’Connor’s social drama Capital Letters in which she held the lead role of Taiwo, a runaway illegal immigrant. She also played the lead character of Mary in Billy O’Brien’s thriller Isolation which just won the top award at the Gerardmer Fantasy Film Festival 2006, and the secondary roles of Lolita in Brian W.Cook’s Colour Me Kubrick [trailer] and Charlie in Neil Jordan’s acclaimed Breakfast On Pluto [trailer].
Cineuropa: How was the transition from theatre to film ?
Ruth Negga : I trained at the Trinity College in Dublin and have been working mostly in theatre, so stage is still what I feel more confident with because of the experience I’ve had over the years. But since 2004, I’ve made four feature films and a short film; I’ve learnt a lot and now I’m more comfortable and able to explore more with the camera.
Screen acting is more challenging in a way because of the technical elements, you have to get used to the close-ups and the one lence following you. It’s a very different relationship.
Last year you made Capital Letters and Isolation with first time directors Ciaran O’Connor and Billy O’Brien as well as Breakfast on Pluto with the established Neil Jordan. Tell us about those films and what were the key differences between working with O’Connor/O’Brien on one hand and Jordan on the other?
Capital Letters was a very low budget film dealing with immigration in Dublin. Real guerilla moviemaking. Isolation is a thriller written and directed by Billy O’Brien. It was physically a very punishing experience because we had to shoot in the middle of nowhere in Ireland and it was absolutely freezing. The acting was not too difficult because I was prepared for the part. Everybody on the set was very young, so we were all learning as we went on, including the director. Nothing was fixed, we could talk about a scene and had a very open relationship with the director.
Working on Breakfast on Pluto was fantastic. Neil Jordan is a hugely experienced filmmaker, a visionary who even thinks of creating texture in the images. I knew it would be easy to work with him because he knows exactly what he wants. There was not much rehearsal and improvisation because we really stock to the script. We just went straight in, fresh and ready to play our parts.
What are your projects for 2006 and is there any specific European filmmaker you’d like to work with in the future?
I’m in the middle of rehearsals for a play that will be shown at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. It is The Bacchae of Bagdad after Euripides adapted by the talented Conall Morrison.
In terms of European filmmakers, I really like Pedro Almodovar. I saw recently Bad Education [trailer] with Gael Garciá Bernal. What a great film. I was really impressed by it.
How does it feel to be nominated as Ireland’s Shooting Star 2006?
It is an honour because Berlin is a thrilling film festival, and it will be a great opportunity to go there because I’ve actually never been there!