Thuso Mbedu season is officially upon us again! The Los Angeles-based, South African actress covers our September/October 2022 issue. In it, she waxes lyrical about her character in the historic biopic The Woman King, which already has the entire world enraptured. (The film premieres in South Africa on Friday, 30 September.) We had such a fun time chatting to her that, in the end, we struggled to fit everything into the cover story — bummer! Below are some tidbits on the state of affairs in her life right now.
WH: What five items are we likely to find in your bag this very minute?
Thuso Mbedu: Firstly, I am a backpack type of girl. You’ll find spectacles, Vaseline, keys, a pen and a notebook that fine artist Nelson Makamo bought for me.
And oh, how did you meet the Nelson Makamo?
TM: I met Nelson through Trevor Stuurman (a visual artist and stylist) when they had an exhibition in LA. Trevor suggested that we go hang out with them, so a friendship developed from there.
What South African TV show do you miss bingeing on?
TM: There aren’t any, unfortunately. I’d rather go on Showmax and repeat Saints and Sinners and isiThunzi. This is not because I starred in both of them [chuckles]. We really had a brilliant cast and the writing was impeccable. Those were some of the most enjoyable TV shows and I would’ve still loved them even if I wasn’t in them. These days, it feels like shows aren’t written for storytelling or craft, but more for social media commentary — and that’s a problem!
What do you miss the most about SA?
TM: Definitely the energy back home. Back home we know how to make light even of the most serious situations. People are friendly, open and hospitable. I had to teach myself not to be that here because it’s often not reciprocated.
Who do you hang out with outside of work in LA?
TM: There’s Brenda, who was an assistant on The Underground Railroad. I also have a friend from Zim that I met here in LA, she’s very cool. I have the likes of Monique Coleman, whom I met through a mutual friend. My community of friends is growing, slowly but surely.
What were you like as a child?
TM: So, I was born in Pietermaritzburg and moved to Ulundi at the age of 4, after my mother had passed away. Then when I turned 11, I moved back to Pietermaritzburg with my grandmother. Coming from Ulundi into Pietermaritzburg made my shyness go up to another level. I arrived in the middle of grade 5 and moved to the express class in grade 6. I was one of only 5 black children in the class. I only came out of my shell in high school. This was when I really let my personality shine through. Post high school, I studied at Wits University and this was where I got to know Thuso more, which became even better post-university. I’m always finding out new things about myself. Even after 30, I am still open to change and learning new things.
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
TM: As a child, I was very quiet and always buried my head in my books. I mostly kept to myself and my silence later became a big family joke. My uncle would tell me how they were all scared of me because of how serious I was [chuckles]. I still have a very serious face! In fact, people who don’t know me always mention how intimidating I am. The Underground Railroad director Berry Jenkins later told me that he was scared to direct me because of how serious I was, compared to other actors that were interactive throughout.
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Emotionally, how do you prepare for big publicity projects such as promoting your films/shows?
TM: As an introvert, this aspect of my job can easily get very overwhelming. I am grateful that I work with a team that completely understands me. When it comes to promotions, they filter out what makes sense. We don’t say yes to everything, and they usually space everything out so that I can still get some downtime. Honestly, all credit goes to my team for all promotions and publicity.
What vice are you yet to give up?
TM: Nothing I partake in needs to be given up.
For more on how Thuso prepare for her role on The Woman King and more, check out the September/October issue of Women’s Health. On sale NOW!