Thuso Mbedu

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Thuso Mbedu
Thuso Mbedu-TIFF (52393471078).jpg
Mbedu in 2022
Thuso Nokwanda Mbedu

(1991-07-08) 8 July 1991 (age 32)
Alma mater University 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

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


2022 The Woman King Nawi
2024 Mufasa: The Lion King (voice)In production


2014 Isibaya Nosisa3 episodes
2014–2018Saints and SinnersBoni KhumaloLead role
2015Snake ParkKhethiGuest role
2015–2017 Scandal! Kitso MedupeSupporting role (15 episodes)
2016–2017 Is'Thunzi Winnie BhenguLead role (25 episodes)
2017–2019 Shuga IpelengRecurring role (20 episodes) [34]
2018 Generations: The Legacy Okuhle CeleRecurring role
Side DishPhiweMiniseries
2021 The Underground Railroad Cora RandallMiniseries (8 episodes)
2023 Castlevania: Nocturne Annette (voice)Animated series
TBA Untitled task force project AleahUpcoming miniseries [35]

Awards and nominations

YearAssociationCategoryNominated worksResultRef.
2017DSTV Viewers Choice AwardsBest Actress Is'Thunzi Won
International Emmy Awards Best Performance by an ActressNominated
2018 South African Film and Television Awards Best Actress TV DramaWon
International Emmy Awards Best Performance by an ActressNominated
2019 South African Film and Television Awards Best Actress – TV DramaNominated
2021 TCA Awards Individual Achievement in Drama The Underground Railroad Nominated
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Actress, TV Movie/Limited SeriesNominated
Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards Best Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or Television MovieNominated
TV Breakout StarWon
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 AfricaOutstanding Actress of the YearNominated
National Film & Television: South AfricaBest Supporting ActressNominated


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