South Africa’s very own actresses Thuso Mbedu and Charlize Theron have been featured on Vogue’s website where they speak all things Underground Railroad, growing up in South Africa and their different experiences on the set of the American series.
Thuso Mbedu stars in Berry Jenkin’s adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel, where she plays the lead, Cora, a woman who chases her freedom from slavery on a literal train route that runs under Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Indiana.
Throughout the limited series, Cora is followed by slave catcher Arnold Ridgeway, but is also taunted by her own traumas, which include her mother disappearing when she was an infant.
In the Zoom interview Mbedu with Theron, she said while the movie may have been set in the 1800s, it is still a representation of the lives lived by black people today.
“Yes, we were shooting this in 2019 going into 2020 and we were shooting a story set in the 1800s, but black people are still being killed on the streets daily,” Mbedu said.
The Underground Railroad star was interviewed by legendary SA actress Charlize Theron. When the virtual interview began, Thuso said: “I don’t want to fangirl, but I’m very excited to be talking to you.”
“Oh my gosh, you just took the words out of my mouth. I’m so in awe of the work you have done. There’s this emerging South African talent coming forth right now and I’m just really proud and really impressed. You guys are stepping in and setting the bar,” said Charlize in reply.
The Q&A moved to Charlize asking Thuso about her background and where she grew up. Thuso spoke about growing up in Pietermaritzburg where she was raised by her grandmother. Charlize then shifted the focus to Thuso’s grandmother, asking if she still lived in KZN to which Thuso replied that her grandmother had passed away in 2014.
“Oh my God. I didn’t grow up with grandparents, unfortunately, and I really mean unfortunately, because I see the relationship that my daughters now have with my mom. I’ve made it my mission to always, always talk about the importance of my mother in raising my two girls,” Charlize replied.
The two stars then moved on to discussing their small and tightknit families, with Thuso saying that in her immediate family just her and her sister were left. “In my nuclear family, it’s just my sister and I that’s left. She has a daughter and then we have cousins, but it’s a few.”
“I can relate to that,” Theron said. “I only have me and my mom, but I feel like I have a large family of people that I’ve chosen to be my family.”
Charlize and Thuso went on to discuss Thuso’s role on The Underground Railroad and the impact the series had on Thuso as the main lead, viewers and society.
“We definitely need to not shy away from the conversation. I’ve seen it with people being active here in the US, where it’s like, yes, we’re having conversations in our pockets, but they’re now turning those conversations into policies which will change the system, because it is a system that is at play here when we are opposing oppression or different types of injustices,” says Thuso.
Read the full interview here