As she smashes it in Hamlet, we celebrate the finest moments of the hottest British actress in town.

Chances are you only heard of Cush Jumbo when she started playing Hamlet at the Young Vic in October. Or the more eagle-eyed TV fans among you may have spotted her in The Good Wife and its offshoot, The Good Fight. Whenever she hit your radar, she has been electrifying stage and screen on both sides of the Atlantic since 2011.

In 2012, she won the Ian Charleson Award for her role as Rosalind in As You Like It at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. The Guardian said at the time: “If these performances truly reflect her talent, Jumbo looks set to become one of the best actresses of her generation.”

It sure seems like whatever she touches turns to gold. She’s been in every play you can think of – and has won gongs for most. She glittered in She Stoops to Conquer, gleamed in Julius Caesar and glowed in A Doll’s House. She wrote and starred in an award-winning one-woman show, Josephine and I, which premiered in London and transferred to New York. Her list of TV credits is endless.

Image: By shining.darkness - Flickr: The Hub 4, CC BY 2.0

How to Fail with Elizabeth Day

The recording of this episode of Elizabeth Day’s hit podcast coincidentally took place the very day that Cush Jumbo collected her OBE. The pair have been pals since Day interviewed Jumbo for her first major piece of press in 2012. The latter recalls fondly how delighted she was that Day did not ask her ‘black questions’. It is consistently evident that Jumbo wants to be seen as a great actress, not as a woman or a person of colour or as a girl from South London. She is particularly good in this podcast when she remembers how she felt as she started filming The Good Wife. Suffering from acute imposter syndrome, she was terrified that somebody on set would shout: ‘Hey, you from Lewisham! You’re not meant to be here. Get back on the plane.’ Listen in here.

The Graham Norton Show

If, until now, you’ve only been familiar with Jumbo speaking in a flawless American accent, your jaw will drop when you hear her natural London one. Always told she was a good mimic as a child, the woman is a wizard. She is expressive, luminescent and a bit cheeky in this socially distanced episode of The Graham Norton Show, which was filmed in March this year. Watch out for her self-deprecating story about when she met Daniel Day-Lewis. Watch it here.

What I Love Podcast

In this brilliant podcast, conceived in lockdown, the celebrated theatre director Ian Rickson conducts interviews with mega writers, producers and stars of the British stage. The Cush Jumbo episode was recorded on the empty stage of the Young Vic, where she was due to start playing Hamlet before the pandemic scuppered her. Rickson and she have a great rapport (it’s a theme – she’s obviously easy to get along with). Listen in here.

Meet the Playwright: Cush Jumbo

Talking in 2013 about Josephine and I, the play about the jazz artist Josephine Baker that she wrote and starred in, Jumbo is raw and gentle and very honest in this clip. It is thrilling to watch this one and focus on how the actress – wearing jeans and a woolly hat – was about to catapault to stardom. Watch it here.

David Tennant Does a Podcast with: Cush Jumbo

When Tennant and Jumbo worked together on the Channel 4 drama, Deadwater Fell, they developed a friendship that shines through this interview. With her thoughtful charm, Cush is fascinating on her reasons for leaving The Good Fight, the moment New York went into lockdown and her complicated – but enduring – relationship with Shakespeare. Listen in here.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

This appearance on the late-night US talk show was ostensibly to publicise The Good Fight when it began in 2017. But its real value comes as Colbert and Jumbo start declaiming from memory the Shakespeare sonnet, When In Disgrace, together. It looks totally impromptu. Please, God, let it be. Talent oozes from them both. Watch it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
October 2021

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.