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TV and Movies

South African Actress Thuso Mbedu Lands A Lead Role In Hollywood’s Amazon Series

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Thuso Mbedu at the 2018 International Emmy Awards show in New York

South African sensational actress, Thuso Mbedu has made history by becoming the first South African actress to land a lead role in a Hollywood TV series. Consequently, the 28-year old actress will be playing the role of Cora in the TV series ‘The Underground Railroad’. The premiere will be later this year.

Barry Jenkins, the award-winning director took up the challenge to direct the series. Jenkins is also the co-writer of Moonlight, an Academy Award-winning film. Reliable reports hint that Jenkins will be the director of all the eleven episodes. Each of the episodes has a one-hour duration. Subsequent announcement about the cast and project by Variety Magazine said,

“The cast will be led by Thuso Mbedu as Cora, with Chase W. Dillon as Homer and Aaron Pierre as Caesar. The project was first set up more than two years ago, on the heels of Barry Jenkins’s Oscar win for the film Moonlight, with Amazon officially ordering it to series last June.”

A sneak peek into cast and story

‘The Underground Railroad’ is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead. The Underground Railroad is a 2016 publication that tells the story of Cora. Thuso Mbedu will be playing the role of Cora, a young slave girl working on a cotton plantation in Georgia. However, Cora faces rejection among Americans and her African peers. A slave, Caesar, arrives from Virginia and beckons on her to join him on the Underground Railroad. Cora seizes the opportunity to escape with him.

The historical significance of The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad has a historical significance. It is not just a metaphor but a network of engineers, secret tunnels and tracks underneath the Southern soil. The Underground Railroad also has a network of people who aid fugitives to escape to the North of Canada. One of the key figures in the Underground Railroad network is Ohio’s John Fairfield, an abolitionist and former slave.

Fairfield became famous for employing inventive techniques to help fleeing slaves make it to Free-States. However, Fairfield is not the only one in this practice. Another key figure in this practice was Levi Coffin. The Quaker aided over 3,000 slaves. Harriet Tubman accompanied over 300 slaves on a perilous journey to freedom.

Mbedu’s reaction

Mbedu shot into the spotlight with her role in ‘Generations: The Legacy’. However, her role as Winnie in ‘Is’thunzi’ earned her two International Emmy Award nominations in 2018 and 2019. The gorgeous actress took to her Instagram page to share good news. She shared a picture of her and three other characters followed by a long outpouring of gratitude and emotion.

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My thumb and neurons are failing me right now so I'll just do as most South Africans do when this happens: I GOT THE JOB!!!! It was such an amazing process and experience. Like, true story, just prepping to audition for this role made me grow so much. It's such a blessing and honour to tell this story… Again, words fail me so I'll stop there for now. Read the full article on @variety .com #chapter27 #becomingthepromise God of creation There at the start Before the beginning of time With no point of reference You spoke to the dark And fleshed out the wonder of light And as You speak A hundred billion galaxies are born In the vapor of Your breath the planets form If the stars were made to worship so will I I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made Every burning star A signal fire of grace If creation sings Your praises so will I God of Your promise You don’t speak in vain No syllable empty or void For once You have spoken All nature and science Follow the sound of Your voice And as You speak A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath Evolving in pursuit of what You said If it all reveals Your nature so will I I can see Your heart in everything You say Every painted sky A canvas of Your grace If creation still obeys You so will I – @hillsongunited

A post shared by Thuso Mbedu (@thuso.mbedu) on

South African actresses like Pearl Thusi and Terry Pheto are big names in Hollywood TV series. However, none has ever played a lead role. There seem to be a lot of accolades coming out of South Africa. A few days ago, Manthso by Palesa Mokubung made history as the first African fashion brand to land a global collaboration with H&M. This is not an individual success but a collective national success.

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TV and Movies

Nollywood Movie Featuring Beverly Naya and Mawuli Gavor Premieres At Cannes Film Festival

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Nigerian movies are gradually gaining recognition on the international stage. Every year, filmmakers from around the world attend the Cannes Film Festival to showcase their works cut across all genres. Consequently, Nigeria’s romantic movie, ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Two Weeks In Lagos’ is one of the two African movies to screen at the event. The other is ‘Atlantics’ by Matip Diop, a Senegalese French director. The Kathryn Fasegha’s directorial was screened at the Pavillion Afriques dedicated to Pan-African film industry on Friday, May 17. A worldwide screening will follow subsequently. The award-winning writer and director said,

“I am very excited to be at the Cannes Film Festival. For me, it’s not just about directing a movie, it is also exciting to see my movie placed at one of the biggest film platforms in the world.”

Now in its 72nd edition, the Cannes Film Festival opened on the 14th of May and will end on May 25. The Canadian-based filmmaker thanked everyone that contributed to the success of ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’.

“The Cannes film festival is one where movies from different parts of the world are showcased to promote film making. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to bringing this movie to life, from the cast to the crew and everyone indeed.”

A peek into ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’

Two Weeks In Lagos’ captures the vibrant and exciting everyday life in Lagos. However, it also portrays the complexity of the city where anything is possible within a short time. The movie follows the turbulent and thrilling romantic relationship existing between Lola (Beverly Naya) and Ejikeme (Mawuli Gavor).

https://www.instagram.com/twoweeksinlagos/?utm_source=ig_embed

Ejikeme is an investment banker in the United States. However, his path cross with Lola when he comes home (Nigeria) to invest. Theirs is a case of love at first sight. However, they have to fight the sinister motive of Ejikeme’s mother who is making plans for him to marry the only daughter of a political juggernaut, Otumba Ayodeji.

Ayodeji is making plans to pick Ejikeme’s father as his running mate for the Presidency. A clash of interest between Ejikeme and his mother also puts Lola’s family in danger. Other casts of the movie include Joke Silva, Jide Kosoko, Toyin Abraham, and Shaffy Bello. Consequently, Mawli Gavor, Beverly Naya, and Joke Silva are in France for the premiere.

Matip Diop’s Atlantics

Unlike ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’, Matip Diop’s ‘Atlantics’ also made history at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie screened in the Palme d’Or on the 16th of May. Palme d’Or is a competition segment of the film festival. Consequently, in the 72 years history of the Cannes Film Festival, this is the first time an African movie will be screening in this category. Reacting to this development, Diop said,

“It’s pretty late and it’s incredible that it is still relevant. My first feeling to be the first black female director was a little sadness that this only happened today in 2019. But if for some young black female film directors I can represent a new dynamic, I’m obviously extremely happy.”

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Nigeria’s Uzo Aduba Plays First Black Female Congress Member In Upcoming FX Series

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Uzo Aduba, the Nigerian-American sensational actress will play Shirley Chisholm in upcoming FX series, ‘Mrs. America’. Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to gain entry into the United States Congress. From 1969 to 1983, she represented New York’s 12th congressional district. However, this is not the only ‘first’ in her record. Breaking the news on her official Instagram page @uzoaduba she said,

“Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Excited to share! Link in bio”

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first black candidate to run for president of the United States under the Democratic platform. Joining Uzo Aduba in this epic series are Sarah Paulson, Rose Byrne, James Marsden, and Cate Blanchett.

A peek into Mrs. America

Mrs. America tells the story of how a group of conservative women fought for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Undoubtedly, this is one of history’s toughest cultural wars. Leading the war was Phyllis Schlafly, a role played by Oscar-winning actress, Blanchett. However, the culminating events changed the political landscape forever. It also led to the rise of the Moral Majority.

Dahvi Waller, the Emmy-winning producer will also be the executive producer of Mrs. America. Waller will share this role with Blanchett, Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, Coco Francini, and Stacey Sher. The directors of the first two episodes will be Boden and Fleck. The duo is famous for co-writing and directing Captain Marvel. Mrs. America will premiere as a nine-episode series. However, there is no release date for the series just yet.

Uzo Aduba’s career and awards

Uzo Aduba came to limelight in 2007 after starring in ‘Coram Boy’. She is currently the first actress to win an Emmy in drama and comedy. She won the 2014 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy for her role in Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’. The following year she won the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. The other person to have won Emmy in comedy and drama is Ed Asner. However, these are not her only achievements.

Uzo Aduba has also won the SAG Award in 2015 and 2016 for Best Actress in Comedy. Three times, she has won the Best Ensemble in a Comedy (2015, 2016, and 2017). This is a rare opportunity to tell the story of past heroes to future generations.

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Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman To Play Yasuke, The First Black Samurai

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The popular opinion is that only Asians become samurai. Apparently, there were a few non-Asian samurais in history. However, the person that started it all was Yasuke, the first black samurai. The story of Yasuke has been a secret for a long time. However, that is about to change. Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman, will play the role of Yasuke. According to a report on Deadline, Boseman said,

“The legend of Yasuke is one of history’s best-kept secrets. That’s not just an action movie… That’s a cultural event, an exchange, and I am excited to be part of it.”

Yasuke’s biography

Perhaps, one of the best insights into the personality of Yasuke is through the book by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard. The book is titled “African Samurai: The True Story, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan”. According to the book, Yasuke was taken from his village. Subsequently, he was sent to India to work for the Portuguese. However, he came to Japan in 1579 working as the bodyguard of Alessandro Valignano, a powerful Portuguese Jesuit missionary.

Furthermore, to get favor from warlord Oda Nobunaga, Valignano offered Yasuke as “a weapon bearer and novelty” to Nobunaga. Impressed by Yasuke’s loyalty, Nobunaga gave him a prestigious samurai status. Consequently, as a samurai, he was revered by everyone around him. According to the biographers, “People in the streets did not only gape at him. They bowed, heads to the earth, as they addressed him.” However, there is a slightly different version of the biography according to Deadline.

“Yasuke was a native of Portuguese Mozambique who was brought to Japan as a slave to Jesuit missionaries. [Consequently] the first black man to set foot on Japanese soil, Yasuke’s arrival aroused the interest of Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord seeking to unite the fractured country under his banner. [However] a complex relationship developed between the two men as Yasuke earned Nobunaga’s friendship, respect—and ultimately, the honour, swords, and title of samurai.”

Movie development

Yasuke is a 16th-century Japanese samurai. However, the talk about the STX film dates back to 2017. Stephen L’Heureux and Mike De Luca were co-producing a movie on Yasuke’s story at that time. According to Deadline, Doug Miro (‘Narcos’ co-creator) was in charge of the script writing.

However, this is not the first time Boseman will be starring in biographical movies. He featured in ‘Get On Up’ (as James Brown), ‘42’ (as Jackie Robinson), and ‘Marshall’ (as Thurgood Marshall). However, fingers are already pointing at Boseman’s next project, ’21 Bridges’. He will be playing a detective hunting down a pair of cop killers. The Black Panther star is already becoming a fan’s favourite.

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