The Underground Railroad’s Thuso Mbedu on learning to embody Cora’s struggle

As The Underground Railroad’s protagonist, Cora, Thuso Mbedu had to take on a lot. Cora’s story in the book is one of almost constant pain, struggle, and fear, and Mbedu had to figure out how to embody that on-screen, not just in her words, but in her body and movement. She had to figure out stature from state to state, and reckon with a posture effected by a lifetime of slavery. It was, to say the absolute least, a lot, and it’s something that helps make Mbedu’s performance as Cora one of this year’s early awards stand-outs.

The A.V. Club talked to Mbedu about all that work, and why showing the pain of slavery is both historically and artistically essential. We also talked about Mbedu’s home country of South Africa’s legacy of oppression and slavery, and how taking on The Underground Railroad made her think about her own place in history. All that and more can be found in the video above.


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