Levels! Thuso Mbedu got historic 'Underground Railroad' role at first US audition EVER!

03 March 2021 - 07:00
Thuso Mbedu is winning this 2021 thing.
Thuso Mbedu is winning this 2021 thing.
Image: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Actress Thuso Mbedu not only made history as the first SA actress to lead a mainstream US series, but she bagged the role at her very first ever US audition.

The twice Emmy-nominated actress plays the lead role in Barry Jenkins' adaptation of  Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Underground Railway, set to premiere next month on Amazon Prime Video.

The novel follows the life of Cora, a young slave who escapes from a plantation with her companion, Caesar, and heads north on the underground railway.

Speaking to popular US fashion and lifestyle publication Dazed recently, Thuso revealed that she went for an audition, her first in America, in 2018 while attending the Emmy Awards.

“I'd only done one dialect session for the accent and it was my first American audition. So I was fully aware of the fact that I probably wouldn't get the role. I was like, 'It's OK, it's gonna take time and practice'. So I let it go.”

She was in LA a few months later for a meeting when she met up with a studio executive who knew the casting director. She got a call back and later met Barry to discuss the role.

The Academy Award-winning director said Thuso's life story was similar to Cora's and he could see her in the role.

Reflecting on bagging the gig, in 2019, Thuso said it was a blessing and an honour to tell such an important story.

“My thumb and neurons are failing me right now so I'll just do as most South Africans do when this happens: I got the job! It was such an amazing process and experience. Like, true story, just prepping to audition for this role made me grow so much. It's such a blessing and honour to tell this story ... Again, words fail me so I'll stop there for now,” she said.

Thuso was recently featured on Essence Magazine’s global top 20 “Young Black Hollywood Stars To Watch in 2021" list, alongside fellow SA actress Nomzamo Mbatha.

She is rumoured to also be in the running for a role on an upcoming Star Wars series coming to Disney+.


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