BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens in theaters everywhere on March 17th!
Audra McDonald (“Garderobe”) & Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Plumette”) were a pleasure to speak with during our press event. So why did these lovely, talented ladies want to be a part of Beauty and the Beast?
Gugu was only eight years old when the animated version was produced. She told us that she was obsessed with the original Disney film and used to make her mother play her cassette tape in the car on her way to dance everyday. “I knew all the words to all the songs and you know, it was, it is still my favorite Disney movie so I had a very personal connection to it. And when my agent called and said they wanted me to play a part in this I squealed down the phone, so loudly.”
Audra heard that they were going to make a live version of Beauty and the Beast, so when her agent called her and told her what changes they were making in the story and that they wanted her to be in it, at first she didn’t fully comprehend…“I was like, ‘excuse me? That doesn’t make sense.”
“But, if Disney calls, like I said, I would sell churros at the park for them, you know what I mean?” ~ Audra
I remember watching Private Practice and being intrigued with Audra McDonald. She played such a strong role and very memorable. I didn’t realize that she could sing (I’ve must have been living under a rock…because she has a powerful voice). Audra grew up in Fresno, California (about 45 minutes away from where I currently live). She was born into a musical family and received her classical vocal training at Juilliard! When you watch Beauty and the Beast, you will be blown away…as her voice lights up every scene she is in!
“I was a really hyperactive child having, struggling, actually and my parents were struggling with trying to figure out how to help me. And I was an overdramatic child and having a hard time in school and whatnot. And they went to the local dinner theater one night and saw a little junior troop that performed before the main musical and it was kid, a group of kids. And I loved to sing at home and all that stuff and I had all this extra energy and drama inside of me. And they said, ‘maybe this is gonna help her.’ And so, I auditioned for that when I was nine years old and that set me on my path and so I really, I really have my parents to thank for looking for something that would be right for me to express who I was and find a way to channel that energy. And so that’s what started me on my path.” ~ Audra
It was great to see such a multicultural cast in the film. Gugu told us they they all just brought themselves to the film and she was “thrilled that Bill Condon, the director, had the vision to make it such a diverse cast. You know, it wasn’t really something we discussed, which is kind of cool in this day and age, it just sort of is.” Someday, hopefully we will live in a day and age where people don’t even think about the color of your skin or your sexual orientation. Audra is “pleased that Disney recognizes that you know, you’ve got to represent the entire world out there. And that’s what they’re doing.”
Audra‘s daughter was so excited for her mother to work with Emma Watson. This was a surprise to me, only because Audra is such a talented actress and singer…but then again, she is mom. Kids view their parents in a different light. Audra actually said she was thrilled that her daughter was excited about Emma, “because Emma’s such an incredible role model.” Audra is an incredible role model herself, but she never once talked about her accolades…she only had wonderful things to say about her fellow cast members. What really impressed me was when she told us that for her daughter’s 15th and 16th birthday, she asked for people to make donations to charities in her name! Audra said, “That’s what she asked for and that’s because of Emma Watson.”
Kids learn so much from what they watch…and it’s nice to have role models like Emma, Audra, and Gugu around for our youth to look up to!
Both of these actresses had to play a real person and an animated prop in the film. Gugu told us “it was just so liberating.” This was such a different role for her…as she came from intense dramatic roles and now she was going to play a feather duster. She thought it was “so whimsical and fun.” Finding her voice was challenging. She put in a lot of vocal work to make Plumette come to life. She worked on her French accent with a dialect coach and got into the mood of her childhood of “let’s pretend.” She didn’t feel limited by her face and body, she was free to use her voice to explore!
Gugu was pleasantly surprised to see that her object was a sort of flying dove/peacock…a very dainty creation. Her costumes mimic the bird theme. One of her costumes had a big tail feather and a huge bustle…and tons of feathers in her hair. It was fun for Gugu to be a blonde, “which is just so outrageous.”
Audra explained how safe she felt with Bill Condon, the director. “Bill’s in there with you and he’s saying, ‘okay, now try one like this.’ So, he’s in there playing, you know, with you in a way. And it’s truly just make believe and so it’s, you know, for the wardrobe it was like, ‘okay, she’s kind of trying to get to the staircase at this point so, grunt a little bit.’ ‘grunt like this, okay now she’s just, snore this way, snore this way, snore and sing a high note.’ I mean so we just, you know, we had the time and the freedom to just sort of explore and then they take that, they go and work with the CGI folks and then the CGI folks bring back something. And then you can then put on top of that, so it’s a real collaborative, it’s a real collaborative effort. I, you know, it takes a village, it takes a massive village for this one.”
Audra‘s costume was so large that she couldn’t walk in any regular door. She had to walk in sideways! Her wig was just as large! If you notice in the film, when she’s transformed into the wardrobe her wig is actually the top of the wardrobe. “You couldn’t even see them but this is the detail that Disney pays attention too. The shoes that I wore were the feet of the wardrobe, so if you’d actually seen my shoes, they curled up into the exact sort of way that the legs of the wardrobe and all of that. I mean and even within the design of like our make up and all of it is echoed in our objects that we were.” Now her wig was two feet off her head and extremely heavy. She couldn’t sit down on set or hold her head up for long periods of time. The carpenters built her a lean to, so in between takes she could lean back and relax.
Gugu hopes that people will get swept up in the romance of the film. “I love the message that beauty is found within, you know, it’s an oldie but a goodie. But, I think you know, really for this film, you know, the idea to you know, look a little deeper, see the human within each and every person, you know, even if the exterior is not, is something that intimidates you or you’re not familiar with. You know, there’s, there’s always a human underneath it all. And I think to try to connect to somebody’s soul, is really important.”
“Love conquers all, love wins and it’s not about just giving the love but loving yourself too.” ~ Audra
The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in Disney’s live-action adaptation “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.
Directed by Bill Condon based on the 1991 animated film, “Beauty and the Beast,” the screenplay is written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos and produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman, p.g.a. and Todd Lieberman, p.g.a. with Jeffrey Silver, Thomas Schumacher and Don Hahn serving as executive producers. Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards® (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the animated film, provides the score, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as three new songs written by Menken and Tim Rice. “Beauty and the Beast” will be released in U.S. theaters on March 17, 2017.
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Disclosure: I was invited by Disney to attend an all expenses paid trip to cover the #BeOurGuestEvent & other fun adventures in LA on 3/4-3/7. All opinions are my own.