Thuso Mbedu from South Africa has landed the lead in the television series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead.
South African actress Thuso Mbedu, who has twice been nominated for the International Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress, is now officially a leading lady in Hollywood. The 27-year-old will play the role of Cora in the television series of The Underground Railroad, a Pulitzer Prize winner written by Colson Whitehead. The series will be directed by the high-profile Barry Jenkins, who recently co-wrote the Academy Award-winning film Moonlight. This makes Mbedu the first black South African actress to play the lead role in an American television series.
The Underground Railroad was published in 2016 and tells the story of Cora, "a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood - where greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him."
Historically, the Underground Railroad was a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape and make it to the North and to Canada. It was not run by any single organisation or individual. Some of the better known participants in the Underground Railroad included the former slave and abolitionist John Fairfield from Ohio, who became known for his inventive methods for helping runaway slaves make it to free states. Levi Coffin was a Quaker who helped more than 3 000 slaves, while Harriet Tubman made many perilous trips into the South, accompanying more than 300 slaves on their road to freedom.
In reaction to the news that she had landed this coveted role, Mbedu said on Instagram, "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 is such a blessing and honour to tell this story... Again, words fail me, so I'll stop there for now."
According to Variety magazine, "The cast will be led by Thuso Mbedu as Cora, with Chase W. Dillon as Homer and Aaron Pierre as Caesar. The project was first set up more than two years ago, on the heels of Barry Jenkins's Oscar win for the film Moonlight, with Amazon officially ordering it to series last June."
We wish Mbedu all the best as her career grows.