Ruth Negga worried her Shirley Bassey role would look like “a parody”

by Lynn Connolly

Misfits actress Ruth Negga has revealed that while starring as Shirley Bassey in a TV biopic about the singer’s life, she was worried that her portrayal may come across to viewers as “a parody.”

The drama, entitled ‘Shirley’ will air on Thursday, September 29, on BBC2 & BBC HD as part of the broadcaster’s Mixed Race season.

Speaking to TV & Satellite Week, Ruth revealed that she only had eight days to prepare for her role, so she “lived and breathed Shirley” during the run up to filming.

She added, “There’s not much footage of her early days. So I lived, ate and breathed Shirley for eight days…

“I’ve never immersed myself in a role so quickly and so deeply.

“I tried out the accent a few times, but I was a bit worried when my Italian flatmate thought I was playing an Italian.”

And when asked if she felt her portrayal of Bassey was an accurate one, Ruth replied, “I’ll never be able to do her perfectly. My real worry was that it would look like a parody.

“Most of the good biopics give you an essence of the person, and that was what I was aiming at.

“I remember watching the Tina Turner film What’s Love Got To Do With It. I totally believed that Angela Bassett was Tina, even though they don’t look physically the same.”

On the subject of the drama being aired as part of the Mixed Race Britain season, Ruth was asked if she’d personally experienced any racial prejudice, to which she replied, “No – I was born to an Ethiopian father and an Irish mother.

“I was lucky I grew up in an area of Ireland where there weren’t many black or mixed race children.

“But I never had any hassle – maybe I’ve blocked it out, but I don’t think so. In fact I was treated in a very special way.

“My family very much adored me and at school I was an object of fascination.”

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Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.