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Pace yourselves for The Underground Railroad, advises Thuso Mbedu

Thuso Mbedu is making a name for herself in the US and intends on flying the South African flag high. Picture: Noa Grayevsky

Thuso Mbedu is making a name for herself in the US and intends on flying the South African flag high. Picture: Noa Grayevsky

Published May 17, 2021

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Johannesburg - Thuso Mbedu’s advice to anyone who is planning on watching the limited series, The Underground Railroad, is to pace themselves.

“I was told to pace but I chose to trudge through it and I had a migraine for two days afterwards,” she said speaking on a Zoom video call at one of the official watch parties in her honour.

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Mbedu plays the lead role of Cora in the series which is an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer prizewinning novel of the same name. The plot follows Cora’s journey to escape slavery after escaping a Georgia plantation. She boards a train embarking on a harrowing trip as she seeks true freedom while being hunted by a notorious slave catcher.

The watch party, which was hosted by Natasha Thahane, was attended by industry friends and family.

While the young star is making a name for herself in the US, she is still firmly a proudly South African talent who intends on flying the flag high.

“For me, more than anything, I didn’t expect to get the role. I went in to try my best. When I eventually read the book, I knew it was an important, powerful story to tell and I believed whoever is best for it should get it and serve the character as best as they can. I went in there, had a conversation with Barry (Jenkins). He pulled me and tested my range and he saw something in me that he felt I could bring to the table,” she said.

“There was a very wide net that was cast for people to audition. The girl I was up against was brilliant and African-American but he (Jenkins) chose to walk this journey with me.”

The actress was responding to a question about how it was to tell an African American-story as a South African. It had crossed her mind that she would receive some kind of backlash but she always puts her artistry first.

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“I am theatrically trained and can act as 80-year-olds and people will believe it so it is about delivering the performance. There’s also that other side where we as Africans have watched our stories get told by African -Americans.”

The 29-year-old also addressed comments about local actors only getting international roles that saw them in “less than” roles.

“I have always been picky about the type of work I do. I have said no to roles back home because they didn’t make sense (to me). I want work that will impact society in a positive way, that will spread a message and have meaning behind it. My first point of call is God so if he gives me the go-ahead, it’s done. People will have their opinions but I have nothing to prove to people.”

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Gauteng Tourism’s Barba Gaoganediwe said Mbedu was a prime example of how the province gave people access to the world.

“It is all because of the creative energy, toil and determination of the people that drives the DNA of Gauteng. Destination South Africa is once again high on the map and with our resources we are always willing to help with anything that can shape the story,” he said.

Thahane said Mbedu was a testimony of the power of God.

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“One thing that I would like for all of us to take tonight is that God has appointed us, anointed us before we were in our mothers’ wombs. I want to encourage a lot of artists that God is in the neighbourhood. Speak to your God and when it is your time, people will be in awe. Our industry is tough but there is nothing that beats God.”

The event was hosted at The Leonardo in Sandton and was attended by the likes of Rami Chuene, Lasizwe, Hulisani Ravele, Lunathi Mampofu, Makgotso M, Zikhona Sodlaka and Connie Chiume.

The Underground Railroad 10-part miniseries is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The Star

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