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‘Undercovers’ leads took different paths

Mbatha-Raw's lifelong ambition taken up late by Kodjoe

New Faces for Fall:
Sharon Horgan | Jon Michael Hill | Billy Gardell | Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe | Andrew Lincoln | Holt McCallany | Michael Pitt | Maggie Q | Ruth Wilson | James Wolk
Fall TV Preview 2010

Since Gugu Mbatha-Raw first took to performing onstage at 11, she knew being an actress was her destiny. But her “Undercovers” TV husband Boris Kodjoe quips the only acting he did as a child was “acting out with my brother.”

“I didn’t open that box until I was interested in losing my (German) accent. Then I got the fever pretty quickly,” says Kodjoe, who moved from model to actor in his early 20s with “Soul Food.”

Mbatha-Raw trained early, graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and embarking on a career trajectory marked by success in British theater and even a bit of TV (“Doctor Who”). She landed in the United States for the first time last year, starring on Broadway opposite Jude Law in “Hamlet.”

After capturing the plum role in J.J. Abrams’ romantic espionage series, she began fielding questions about the color-blind casting.

“Coming from the U.K., we have a different cultural legacy, so I was pretty naive,” says the outgoing only child of a South African physician and British nurse. “I just saw a great page-turner that offered roles within roles. It made an attractive package.”

Kodjoe, a former pre-med student whose mother is a German psychologist and father a Ghanaian physician, says the role represents becoming part of mainstream Hollywood.

“I’ve had to overcome all those cultural and linguistic obstacles,” Kodjoe says. “I cherish this moment because I’m absolutely aware of how rare this opportunity to show so many gears — comedy, drama, romance, action — is for any actor.”

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