Close-up: Noma Dumezweni

The actor prepares to do battle with a rebel cast (and the heart-throb next door)
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The Independent Online

Bringing a notoriously confusing play to the West End is no mean feat, especially when Hollywood star vehicle Rain Man is next door. Not that the competition fazes actress Noma Dumezweni. "When the girls in the dressing-room found out Josh Hartnett was in Rain Man, we said, 'That's fantastic.' We just want to look at him."

The play Dumezweni is set to star in is Rupert Goold's Six Characters in Search of an Author, Pirandello's classic about the thin line between fact and fiction updated for our televisual age.

The 39-year-old plays a harassed film producer making a documentary on euthanasia when the titular characters hijack the shoot with a harrowing tale of their own. It's not a role that has tempted her to step behind the camera for real. "Early on, a TV executive turns up and tells my character that the story she's working on isn't very good. The pressure is huge," she says. "I couldn't take it."

Lucky, then, that she is busy carving out an impressive stage career, which has seen her tread the boards at the RSC and the National. In 2006, she picked up an Olivier for her performance in the Young Vic's production of landmark African-American drama A Raisin in the Sun.

As a black actor, Dumezweni admits it hasn't always been easy to find diverse roles. "A lot of my black contemporaries have gone over to the US, and I don't blame them; over there, actors are not defined by colour." But the landscape, it seems, might be changing. "I was surprised I got this part," she admits. "I thought, you don't see many producers of colour, and if I can't see myself in the role, no one will. But they took a creative punt on it and that's wonderful."

'Six Characters in Search of an Author' previews at the Gielgud Theatre, London W1 (0870 950 0915) from 10 September