Ruth Negga Crafted a ‘F*ck-You Machine’ to the Establishment with Her Radiant Turn in ‘Passing’

Ruth Negga Crafted a ‘F*ck-You Machine’ to the Establishment with Her Radiant Turn in ‘Passing’


Jude Dry

Ruth Negga in “Passing

Negga’s provocative and strong-willed character in Rebecca Hall’s film highlights the actress’ singular talent.

Ruth Negga’s radiant performance in “Passing” is almost unrecognizable from her last Oscar-nominated role. Those who only know the Irish and Ethiopian actress as Mildred Loving, the soft-spoken, steady heroine of 2016’s romantic drama “Loving,” are in for a delightfully rude awakening when they meet Clare Bellew, the destabilizing force whirling through director Rebecca Hall’s new film.

While Mildred was resolute and composed in the face of injustice, Clare is provocative and strong-willed, a sunny seductress determined to live life exactly on her terms. Though they live in very different worlds, Clare has a lot more in common with Negga’s hot-headed “Preacher” character Tulip than she does with Mildred — and with the charismatic Negga herself.

In an interview with IndieWire, Negga explained why she embraced her latest onscreen character. “Everything about Clare for me is a fuck-you to an establishment, any kind of establishment,” she said. “A Black woman wanting something, being fully invested in her ability to seduce anyone, her enjoyment of it, her enjoyment of flirting with danger, but also, at the same time, acknowledging that she cannot be safe.” She described Nella Larsen’s original novella, which inspired the movie, as “a fuck-you machine … but also a very human one, because everything about her is a worry to the status quo.”…

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