Why Thuso Mbedu Idolizes Viola Davis in Her Work

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Photo Source: Nathan Arizona

Already a star in her native South Africa, where she’s been twice-nominated for the International Emmy Award for best actress, Thuso Mbedu is utterly unforgettable in Barry Jenkins’ limited series adaptation of “The Underground Railroad.” Looking back on the career steps, performances, and pieces of advice that brought her to this moment, the actor answers our Backstage 5 acting questionnaire below. 

What’s one screen performance should every actor see and why? 
Only one? Oh, there’s so many! But snap, I think I’m gonna say anything by Viola Davis with Denzel Washington. Like, you can close your eyes and go back. You will learn a lot because I had that when I was in university. I would watch something by Mr. Denzel or Ms. Viola, and I would stop the TV and I would just try to suck it in. And I’d be in tears crying hoping that one day, I would be a fraction of whatever, however good they are. They are brilliant.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done for a role? 
The wildest thing for a role? Oh, no. I think that just, you know, leaving home and traveling across the oceans not knowing what’s happening.

What’s your No. 1 piece of audition advice? 
Be direct-able and play. Don’t judge yourself. 

How did you get your SAG-AFTRA card?
I was told that because I was part of “The Underground Railroad” I qualified, and so I applied.

What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
You cannot be in control of everything, and that’s OK. Allow yourself to learn and grow as you go along.

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