On stands September 14th, W Magazine Volume 4 The Pop & Fall Fashion Issue, features The Underground Railroad actress, Thuso Mbedu on the issue’s third of four covers. In her first W Magazine cover, shot just a few days before her 30th birthday, Mbedu talks about preparing for her role as Cora Randall in Amazon Prime’s 10-epidsode series, The Underground Railroad and working with the series director, Barry Jenkins. Mbedu also talks about working alongside her idol, Viola Davis and their forthcoming film The Woman King.
On her character Cora Randall’s journey in Barry Jenkins, The Underground Railroad: “In episode 1, she’s always hunched over,”… “you’re trying to be as small as you possibly can at all times. You don’t want to bring any sort of attention to yourself.”… [In episode 3, hiding in an attic] “hunched over in a different state.”… [By episodes 8 and 9, when Cora is living among free people of color] “a Black body with agency”
Listening to audio recordings of emancipated slaves to discover her character, Cora Randall’s voice: “Hearing their broken English drew me much closer to them,”… “In rural South Africa, in certain parts of the townships, some people speak like that. In the recordings, I heard Africans, rather than just African-Americans. I also heard broken spirits, and that changed how I treated Cora. I felt that, as someone who was so withdrawn and isolated, she would use her silence and her voice as weapons.”
On auditioning for the role of Cora Randall: ”I wasn’t aware that Barry was attached to the project, and I didn’t know it was based on a novel,”… “The scenes themselves had everything that I needed.”…[She got the part and bought the book] “and I was like, Oh snap! This is so much bigger than I realized.”
Learning about upcoming co-star and idol, Viola Davis’ process: [an interview in which Davis explained her process] “Viola said that she puts an emphasis on finding the why of any character—the reason this character makes any of the choices they make. For the longest time, before coming across that interview, whenever people would ask me about my process, I didn’t know how to articulate it,”… “Listening to her, I thought, That’s exactly how I approach my work!”
On training for her upcoming role in The Woman King: “Because I’m so tiny, my character has to have a lot of speed,”… “I have to be very fast and agile. Apparently, it wouldn’t be believable that I could potentially punch a person and they’d fall down.”… “I don’t know about that. I would beg to differ.”
[Photo Credit: Campbell Addy for W Magazine]