Thuso Mbedu

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Thuso Mbedu
Mbedu in 2022
Thuso Nokwanda Mbedu

(1991-07-08) 8 July 1991 (age 32)
Alma materUniversity of the Witwatersrand
Years active2014–present
Notable work

Thuso Nokwanda Mbedu[1] (born 8 July 1991)[2] is an American based South African actress. She rose to prominence for her performance in the South African teen drama series Is'Thunzi for which she was nominated consecutively for an International Emmy in 2017 and 2018.[3][4][5] Mbedu later appeared on the 2018 Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list.[6]

In 2021, she starred in the Amazon Video limited series The Underground Railroad as Cora, which made her the first South African actress to lead an American television series,[7] and earned her the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series.[8] She then made her feature film debut in the American historical epic The Woman King (2022) in the role of Nawi.[9]

Early life[edit]

Mbedu was born at Midlands Medical Centre in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal to a Zulu mother and a father of Sotho and Xhosa descent.[10][11][12].She was raised in the Pelham area by her grandmother, who became her legal guardian after the passing of both her parents at an early age.[13]

Mbedu attended Pelham Primary School and then Pietermaritzburg Girls' High School.[14] She went on to study Physical Theatre and Performing Arts Management at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), graduating in 2013 with honours,[15] after also having taken a course at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City in 2012.[16][12]


In late 2014, Mbedu had a small role in the second season of the Mzansi Magic soapie Isibaya,[17] before landing her role as journalism student and wild child Kitso on Scandal!.[18][19] She then had a guest role as Kheti on the second season of the SABC 2 teen drama series Snake Park,[citation needed] and a lead role as Boni Khumalo in the television series Saints and Sinners.[20]

After being unemployed for six months, Mbedu landed her first starring role in television in the Mzansi Magic teen drama series Is'Thunzi, which premiered in October 2016.[17][21] In the series, she played Winnie, a sassy go-getter who dreams of marrying a rich and famous rugby player only to have her dreams dashed when she is exiled to go live with her strict aunt in Bergville. While filming a rape scene for the show, she suffered a panic attack.[22] In September 2017, she was nominated for an International Emmy Award in the category Best Performance by an Actress for her role as Winnie in Is'Thunzi[23] and was the only African to be nominated that year.[24]

Mbedu made her international debut as Cora in the 2021 Amazon Video historical limited series The Underground Railroad, based on the novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead and directed and executive produced by Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins.[25][26] Mbedu earned a Hollywood Critics Association Award, an Independent Spirit Award, and a Gotham Award for the series.[27]

In April 2021, it was announced Mbedu would make her film debut as Nawi opposite Viola Davis in The Woman King, a historical epic film inspired by the true events that took place in the Kingdom of Dahomey,[28] one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. The film was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, from a script by Fatherhood co-writer Dana Stevens.[9][29][30]

In 2023, Mbedu became the ambassador and spokesperson of L’Oréal for Sub-Saharan Africa.[31][32] In August 2023, Mbedu narrated 'The not-quite-redemption of South Africa's infamous ultra-marathon cheats'[33] on Curio, an audio platform.


Denotes productions that have not yet been released


Year Title Role Notes
2022 The Woman King Nawi
2024 Mufasa: The Lion King (voice) In production


Year Title Role Notes
2014 Isibaya Nosisa 3 episodes
2014–2018 Saints and Sinners Boni Khumalo Lead role
2015 Snake Park Khethi Guest role
2015–2017 Scandal! Kitso Medupe Supporting role (15 episodes)
2016–2017 Is'Thunzi Winnie Bhengu Lead role (25 episodes)
2017–2019 Shuga Ipeleng Recurring role (20 episodes)[34]
2018 Generations: The Legacy Okuhle Cele Recurring role
Side Dish Phiwe Miniseries
2021 The Underground Railroad Cora Randall Miniseries (8 episodes)
2023 Castlevania: Nocturne Annette (voice) Animated series
TBA Untitled task force project Aleah Upcoming miniseries[35]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominated works Result Ref.
2017 DSTV Viewers Choice Awards Best Actress Is'Thunzi Won
International Emmy Awards Best Performance by an Actress Nominated
2018 South African Film and Television Awards Best Actress TV Drama Won
International Emmy Awards Best Performance by an Actress Nominated
2019 South African Film and Television Awards Best Actress – TV Drama Nominated
2021 TCA Awards Individual Achievement in Drama The Underground Railroad Nominated
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Actress, TV Movie/Limited Series Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards Best Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or Television Movie Nominated
TV Breakout Star Won
Gotham Awards Outstanding Performance in New Series Won [36]
2022 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated [37]
Independent Spirit Awards Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series Won [38]
2023 Black Reel Awards Black Reel Award for Best Breakthrough Performance by Female The Woman King Won
National Film & Television: South Africa Outstanding Actress of the Year Nominated
National Film & Television: South Africa Best Supporting Actress Nominated



  1. ^ Mposo, Nontando (19 January 2023). "Thuso Mbedu is ready for battle". Glamour. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  2. ^ "6 things you may not know about Thuso Mbedu". iOL. 20 September 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  3. ^ actress Thuso Mbedu gets International Emmy nomination
  4. ^ "7 Questions With… Thuso Mbedu – Forbes Africa". Forbes Africa. 11 January 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  5. ^ Mthonti, Fezokuhle. "Thuso Mbedu: A kaleidoscope of dreams". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Under 30 Creatives - Forbes Africa". Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  7. ^ Jadezweni, Afika. "Thuso Mbedu as the first SA actress to play a leading role in a U.S. series is our new Trevor Noah". Life. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  8. ^ Schaffstall, Katherine (7 March 2022). "Spirit Awards: Lee Jung-jae, Thuso Mbedu Become First-Time Winners for Best Male, Female Leads in TV Series". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  9. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (28 April 2021). "'Underground Railroad's Thuso Mbedu To Star Opposite Viola Davis In 'The Woman King King'". Deadline. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  10. ^ "Thuso Mbedu takes on Hollywood as she makes her big-screen debut". Retrieved 26 June 2023.
  11. ^ "Thuso Mbedu". TVSA.
  12. ^ a b Naidoo, Deepika (28 September 2020). "'I had no clue what they were saying'-Thuso Mbedu on connecting with her Sotho heritage". Times Live. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
  13. ^ "From PMB to the world's TVs". News24. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  14. ^ Kunene, Nompilo (30 January 2017). "From PMB to the world's TVs". The Witness. Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  15. ^ "Meet the first South African actress to lead an American series!!!". Good Things Guy. 17 April 2019.
  16. ^ "10 Things You Didn't Know About Scandal Actress Thuso Mbedu". Youth Village. 16 May 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Thuso Mbedu: From out of work to Emmy nominee". Channel24. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  18. ^ "Thuso Mbedu on how she made it against all odds". News24. 28 July 2017.
  19. ^ "10 Things You Didn't Know About Scandal Actress Thuso Mbedu". Youth Village. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  20. ^ Vieira, Genevieve. "Thuso Mbedu is truly blessed". The Citizen. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Here's 5 things you need to know about actress Thuso Mbedu". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Thuso Mbedu Is Leaving For The International Emmys With Hope For South Africans". Huffington Post South Africa. 13 November 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Thuso Mbedu on life after Emmy nod: 'The truth is we are very dispensable'". Times LIVE. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  24. ^ "'Is'thunzi' star Thuso Mbedu nominated for #Emmy Award | IOL Entertainment". Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  25. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (21 October 2020). "'The Underground Railroad' Teaser: Barry Jenkins Offers First Glimpse Of Thuso Mbedu As Cora In Amazon Limited Series". Deadline. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Thuso Mbedu can't wait for viewers to see her new series with Barry Jenkins". Channel. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  27. ^ Ngwenya, Nkhensani (30 August 2021). "Thuso Mbedu Walks Away With An International Award". Surge Zirc SA. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  28. ^ Höffele, Lerato. "Thuso Mbedu bags role alongside Viola Davis in 'The Woman King'". Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  29. ^ Morkel, Graye. "Thuso Mbedu to star opposite Viola Davis in The Woman King". Channel. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  30. ^ "Africans making waves in Hollywood". SowetanLIVE. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  31. ^ "The Woman King star Thuso Mbedu named L'Oréal Paris Brand Ambassador". Cosmetics Business. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  32. ^ "Thuso Mbedu named L'Oréal Paris brand ambassador". News24. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  33. ^ "Thuso Mbedu: The infamous marathon cheats". Curio.
  34. ^ MTV Shuga: Down South - Ipeleng goes to Varsity - YouTube
  35. ^ Bell, Brianna (13 December 2023). "Emilia Jones, Thuso Mbedu Join HBO's Untitled Task Force Project From Brad Ingelsby". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  36. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (30 November 2021). "Gotham Awards: 'The Lost Daughter' Wins Top Prize — See the Full List of Winners". IndieWire. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  37. ^ Pedersen, Eric (6 December 2021). "Critics Choice TV Nominations: 'Succession' Leads Field As HBO Edges Netflix". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  38. ^ Matiwane, Nonkululeko (7 March 2022). "South Africa celebrates Thuso Mbedu as she bags Spirit Award for Underground Railroad performance". News24. Retrieved 7 March 2022.

External links[edit]