In this era of inclusiveness, intercontinental relations, and telling African stories to the world, African performers have swept the global film industry. Thuso Mbedu, a female actor, has been breaking glass ceilings since she began her career, and she recently reminded us of her role as “Nawi” in The Woman King. For her, the possibilities are endless.
In Gina Prince-film Bythewood’s The Woman King, Mbedu plays Nawi, the newest recruit to the Agojie, an all-female army of warriors that guarded the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s, in what is now known as Benin. Anyone who followed Mbedu on social media could see her unabashed love for The Woman King, as she took her fans along on her transformation into Nawi in order to be the perfect match for the role she landed.
Mbedu plays a miserable character in The Woman King, and her vocal desolation shines through her cries. In contrast, the 31-year-old actress played Cora in Barry Jenkins’ Emmy-nominated TV series The Underground Railroad with poise and strength. Fans in her native South Africa have long admired her ability to fully inhabit a role, as she did with Winnie in Is’thunzi, which earned her two International Emmy nominations for best performance. However, thanks to her most recent role, audiences outside of Africa are quickly becoming acquainted with Mbedu.
In this article, we learn more about The Woman King star, her life, her accomplishments, and The Woman King film. Thuso Nokwanda Mbedu was born and raised in Pelham, a Pietermaritzburg neighborhood in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. Her mother died when she was four years old as a result of a brain tumor. Her mother and father divorced before she was born, so she was raised by her grandmother.
Mbedu had no relationship with her father prior to her mother’s death. Her grandmother died in 2013, not long after her father died in 2012. Mbedu has a close relationship with her sister, Nomalungelo Mbedu. She also studied acting for two months at the Stella Adler Studio in New York City in 2012.
Mbedu was cast in the 2013 film Isibaya. In late 2014, she made a brief appearance in the second season of Mzansi Magic’s serial opera isiBaya before landing the role of Kitso, a wild child and journalism student, on Scandal. Mbedu received her first television lead role after six months of unemployment in the Mzansi Magic adolescent drama series Is’thunzi, which premiered in October 2016. In the show, she played Winnie, a sassy go-getter whose dream of marrying a wealthy and well-known rugby star was dashed when she was sent to live with her stern aunt in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal.
In 2019, she achieved success on international television. She played Cora in The Underground Railroad. The television series was based on Colson Whitehead’s best-selling novel of the same name. She recently won the Independent Spirit Award, Gotham Award, Hollywood Critics Association Award, and was nominated for a Critics Choice Award for her major performance as “Cora” in Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad, making her the first South African leading lady of a U.S. television series.
Mbedu is doing very well for herself. She was nominated for her second International Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in 2018 for her groundbreaking performance on the series Is’Thunzi. She won a SAFTA (South African Film & TV Awards) for Best Actress – TV Drama for her work on the show. That year, she was also featured on the cover of Forbes Africa’s “Under 30” issue, which celebrated young African leaders. The actress appears to be doing well for herself, and her rise to prominence demonstrates that she is unstoppable on her path to greatness.