South African It Girl Thuso Mbedu Has Joined Barry Jenkins's Adaptation of 'The Underground Railroad'

The search for the lead role in Barry Jenkins's adaptation of The Underground Railroad, has come to an end: Thuso Mbedu has officially been cast as Cora, the main character of Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Per reports from Variety, Jenkins has given the main roles of Cora, Homer, and Caesar, three slaves who seek freedom from southern plantations via the Underground Railroad, to actors that are relatively new to American audiences.

Chase W. Dillon, whom audiences will recognize when he appears on BET's First Wives Club series adaptation this fall and when he stars as Young Igwe in Kumail Nanjiani's AppleTV+ series Little America, has been cast as Homer. The role of Caesar has been given to Aaron Pierre, a London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art graduate known for his parts in various historical drama series such as Brittania and Tennison, and Mbedu has been cast as Cora, Caesar's love interest and main focal point of the narrative. The Underground Railroad will consist of eleven one-hour episodes written and directed by Jenkins, as part of his first foray into directing an entire television series.

Mbedu may not be very well known to American audiences right now, but she already is a bonafide star in South Africa. Though she only began acting nearly four years ago, when Mbedu stars in The Underground Railroad, she'll make history as the first South African actress to lead an American television series.

The 27-year-old actress spent last year starring on one of the nation's most popular television series, a soap opera called Generations: The Legacy, and also scored two International Emmy Award nominations for portraying a young woman named Winnie on Is’thunzi, a teen drama series for South Africa's Mzansi Magic channel. According to an interview Mbedu gave to Huffington Post South Africa, the process of portraying Winnie, a young woman who chases marriage with a rich rugby player, was a rigorous one. "I allowed myself to get so lost in the character that I became the character," she said when explaining that the depiction of a rape scene caused her to suffer an anxiety attack. "I felt so traumatized and so powerless in the moment. I was feeling every single emotion as the character and that translated on screen."

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As her large social media following would suggest, Mbedu's popularity in the United States is only going to skyrocket once audiences see her portrayal of Cora in The Underground Railroad. With over 800,000 followers on Instagram, it's clear that Mbedu has become one of South Africa's It Girls to watch, making her way to New York for the International Emmy Awards and eventually heading to Hollywood. Of course, she shared every step of the way on Instagram.

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Sho't left, driver

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She's also set her sights on working with Taraji P. Henson (whom she met late last year), but with this new casting news, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that the two could actually work together at some point in the future, when Mbedu becomes just as big of a star in America as she already is at home.

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