THUSO MBEDU: A STAR THAT CONTINUES TO SHINE
A star that continues to shine
Thuso Mbedu’s expeditious acting career has seen her become one of South Africa’s top actresses.
Thuso Mbedu’s expeditious acting career has seen her become one of South Africa’s top actresses. A familiar face to many, she has graced our television screens since 2016 and recently made it into the 2018 Forbes Africa Under 30 list. Mbedu graciously gave Creative Feel’s Tshepang Ralekgari a moment of her time to chat about her journey so far.
Life has not always been all glitz and glamour for Thuso Mbedu. Growing up, this beautiful actress battled with skin problems, which fueled her goal to become a dermatologist. But life led her down a different path. In grade 10, she wrote, directed and starred in a school production; the play received a standing ovation. Mbedu fell in love with the art of acting.
At times, one needs some form of inspiration in order to succeed in what we want to accomplish. ‘In terms of those that inspire me to be better, it is not actually one person; it is a number of people around me and in my circle,’ says Mbedu. ‘I also draw inspiration from various well-known people, of which some are not specific to acting or my craft.’
Mbedu’s breakout role was in Is’thunzi, a role that she says was a challenge and allowed her to showcase what she is capable of. Another project that is of great significance and a source of pride for Mbedu is iDrive, a crime action drama series that she wrote. While she has managed to shoot the pilot and get the ball rolling on the project, she says that she needs ‘more funding so that I can bring it to your television screens. To be able to create content and see it come to life and be supported by industry colleagues is amazing.’
Growth comes with hard work, and every successful journey has challenges one has to overcome. Though Mbedu experienced many of these such challenges, she pushed forward in pursuit of what she is passionate about. Having graduated with an Honours Degree cum laude from the University of the Witwatersrand, she says, ‘The journey beyond university was difficult. I left home in 2014 with no financial backing and I couch-surfed at my friend’s place while I auditioned and hoped to acquire my first job. When a close aunt of mine departed this life – having played a major role in assisting our grandmother with raising us – three days before my graduation ceremony; sadly I could not go back home for her funeral. My sister was able to arrive in the morning and leave immediately after the graduation ceremony.
‘Five weeks later, a few days before my first TV debut, my grandmother passed on. It was a dreadful period for me. I had to use that pay-cheque to help my sister and her daughter relocate from KwaZulu-Natal to come live with me in Johannesburg. I did not get a job for another three months and the jobs that came in after that were few and did not pay much. In 2016, I found myself without a job for almost six months. That made me question if I should continue on this path or “get a real job” like others would say.’
During this time, Mbedu began writing the types of scripts that she would like to see herself in. A year later, she is starting to see her hard work come to fruition. In addition to iDrive, Mbedu has written a feature film, which has been commissioned for development by the KZN Film Commission.
‘So it is about looking for opportunities during hard times. If I am working, I do not have time to write, it was a blessing that has allowed me to hone my writing skills,’ she says.
When asked what her core motivation to succeed is, Mbedu says, ‘Never stop dreaming. Pray without ceasing because there is a God who listens. I have experienced Him for myself and nobody can take that truth away from me.
Yes, you have to work twice as hard as the next person, but that’s okay because the journey makes the endpoint that much more enjoyable. The process teaches you not to take anything for granted and it builds character, which sustains you much longer than anything else can.
‘Keep your head down. Focus on what matters. Put in the work. It’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish. You will not regret pushing through. Paraphrasing from Wonder Woman: “You’re stronger than you believe and hold more power than you know.” Oh, and training is vital!’
Winning an award in recognition of our hard work or talent is something that we all hope to attain, but it’s often a dream that feels out of reach. This is true for Mbedu too, who thought that if she was fortunate to win any awards, it would only be in her thirties or forties. Being nominated for an Emmy Award and DStv Mzansi Viewers’ Choice Award so early in her career was truly unanticipated, but it was a delightful and most humbling surprise for Mbedu. Winning an award at the South African
Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) this year, she says was ‘amazing. It is always pleasant to be recognised in one’s country as this is my home. It was a sweet experience.’