Shirley's Life Echoes Mine, Says Actress Ruth Negga

Daily Mail (London), September 17, 2011 | Go to article overview

Shirley's Life Echoes Mine, Says Actress Ruth Negga


Byline: Clare Stronge

AS A mixed-race child growing up in 1980s Ireland, actress Ruth Negga could have expected to experience something of a tough time.

To the schoolyard bullies and the nosey neighbours, Miss Negga would have stood out.

But instead, the rising star has spoken about ho w her experience was, in fact, nothing but positive and that she was made to feel even more special because of her background.

The Love/Hate star, who is playing Shirley Bassey in a new BBC2 biopic, revealed she was made to feel different - but in a good way.

Miss Negga, 29, said: 'Where I grew up in Limerick there weren't any black or mixed-race people but I never, ever, ever had any hassle.

'In fact I was treated in a very special way.

'My mum's family adored me so there was never any problem there. At school I was an object of fascination for a while and then that wore off and I was just Ruth.

'I was different, but it was interesting.

Any sort of attention I got was out of interest rather than anything else.' The Limerick star will be playing the Diamonds Are Forever diva in an hour-long drama to be aired as part of the BBC's mixedrace season.

And the life of the Irish actress shares some curious parallels with the Welsh songstress.

Born to a Nigerian father and an English mother, Shirley Bassey - who had hits with songs like Big Spender and Goldfinger - overcame prejudice in the entertainment industry to sell more than 300million albums worldwide.

With an Ethiopian father and Irish mother, Miss Negga has also risen to the upper echelons of her craft, landing prominent roles on stage, on big screens and on small. But while the actress and singer share a dual African and European heritage, there is another, more painful, link between their lives.

Bassey's biological dad left the family home while she was just an infant and Miss Negga's father died in a car accident when she was just seven years old.

She revealed: 'I didn't grow up in poverty like Shirley, but I'm an actress and my job is to be empathetic so I can understand it. …

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