Who plays Cora in The Underground Railroad? Facts about Thuso Mbedu

24 May 2021, 16:56 | Updated: 24 May 2021, 19:32

Thuso Mbedu plays Cora in Amazon's The Underground Railroad
Thuso Mbedu plays Cora in Amazon's The Underground Railroad. Picture: Amazon Prime

By Jenny Mensah

Amazon's The Underground Railroad series, which is based on Colston Whitehead's novel, sees talented South African actress Thuso Mbedu star. Find out more about her here.

The Underground Railroad in a limited Amazon Prime Video series which is based on Colson Whitehead's 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name.

The 10-part fictional series, which follows the story of an enslaved woman named Cora, is already being praised for its powerful retelling of the book and its portrayal of the cruel and unforgiving period in history.

Directed by Barry Jenkins, the adaptation has had a huge impact on audiences across the world, pulling in praise from the public and celebrities alike, with Oprah leading the plaudits and fans predicting awards for its lead.

Thuso Mbedu plays lead character Cora, who accesses the famous Underground Railroad network as she continuously tries to fight for her freedom and battles the trauma caused by the horrors of slavery and a mother she believes left her behind.

Here's everything you need to know about the Thuso Mbedu, including her age, what else she's been in and how she took on the role of Cora.

READ MORE: The harrowing true story behind Amazon's The Underground Railroad

Thuso Mbedu at the Young Creatives Awards Ceremony in 2018
Thuso Mbedu at the Young Creatives Awards Ceremony in 2018. Picture: Noa Grayevsky/Getty Images for RSL Management

Who plays Cora in The Underground Railroad?

Cora in Amazon's The Underground Railroad is played by South African actress Thuso Mbedu.

Thuso Nokwanda Mbedu was born on 8 July 1991 in Pelham, the South African borough of Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Mbedu was raised by her grandmother, who was her legal guardian after both of her parents died at an early age.

When she was 18, she attended the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), where she studied Physical Theatre and Performing Arts Management, graduating with honours. She then moved to the USA and attended the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York in 2012. She has since featured in various sitcoms and TV series.

The Underground Railroad - Official Trailer | Prime Video

How old is Thuso Mbedu?

Thuso Mbedu was born on 8 July 1991, which makes her 29 years old at the time of writing this article.

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Thuso Mbedu won an International Emmy Awards for her role in Is'Thunzi
Thuso Mbedu won an International Emmy Award for her role in Is'Thunzi. Picture: Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

How did Thuso Mbedu prepare for her role as Cora in The Underground Railroad?

The South African African actress spoke to Oprah Winfrey about playing the intense and traumatic role and the coping mechanisms she put in place to deal with some of the disturbing scenes she had to witness.

"At the beginning, I had little tricks I put in place," she told Oprah. "The first time I walked into a set and saw people in the wardrobe it was hard for me to take in. I developed a thing. If I walked into the set, I kept my eyes on the ground until I could look up at the eyes of Cora. Taking the environment in as Thuso was too much. I’d only allow myself to live in that environment when action was called."

Despite detaching herself from her surroundings until she had to, Mbedi also drew upon her experience with the abandonment of losing her own mother as Cora does in the film.

"On my end, I lost my mom at the age of four to a brain tumour. At the time, I didn't understand what was happening. At the funeral, apparently I was talking to my mother and telling her to wake up. I didn’t understand what was happening".

She added: "I had to face that in playing Cora. I had to heal from that in playing Cora."

Mbedu also revealed that she had to seek therapy once the series ended. "I’m good now, I’m good," she explained. "After the shoot wrapped I went to see a therapist because I felt that I really needed to debrief from the character.

"The character and I have a lot of similarities in terms of our foundation. I had to differentiate between the two. I’m good now."

What else has Thuso Mbedu been in?

The actor has is also known for her guest role as a journalism student Kitso in Scandal, for playing Winnie Bhengu in the teen drama series Is'Thunzi and for playing Ipeleng in MTV's Shuga.

See some of her most notable roles here:

  • 2021: The Underground Railroad, Cora (TV Series)
  • 2021: Tales of Contemporary Africa
  • 2017- 2019: Shuga, Ipeleng (TV Series)
  • 2018: iDrive, Hlaki (TV Series)
  • 2018: Side Dish, Phiwe (TV Mini-Series)
  • 2018: Liberty, Rosie (TV Mini-Series)
  • 2016-2017: Is'Thunzi, Winnie (TV Series)
  • 2015: Scandal, Kitso (TV Series)
  • 2014: Isibaya, Nosisa (TV Series)

READ MORE: Meet Krysta Rodriguez, the actress who plays Liza Minnelli in Netflix's Halston


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