During her keynote speech at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit, “The Woman King” actress Thuso Mbedu tearfully shared how she overcame the tragic loss of her mother, aunt and grandmother during her journey in acting. Mbedu says it wasn’t until she received her role in Amanda Lane’s “Is’Thunzi” that life started to look up for her.
“My world was a blur until Amanda Lane happened in 2016,” Mbedu said. Her words came after she was introduced by “The Woman King” director Gina Prince-Bythewood. In the opening of her keynote, she shared her mother died of a brain tumor when she was a 4-year-old, adding that at a certain point, her mother’s ongoing illness started to “shut down” parts of her brain.
“I remember standing by her casket and asking her to wake up,” Mbedu said.
After her mother’s death, Mbedu’s aunt became she and her sister’s legal guardian. She mentioned that her grandmother’s presence gave her her “why” for being in the entertainment industry. During her first year in college, at age 21, she traveled to New York for an acting summer program. She later graduated from college with honors and got her first professional job in May 2014. In June 2014, three days prior to her graduation, her aunt passed away in a car accident. Most of her family was unable to attend her graduation because they were making funeral arrangements.
Five weeks later, three days before her first TV debut, Mbedu’s grandmother passed away. After that, actress says she didn’t care if she “lived or died.”
“My dreams were better than my reality,” said Mbedu, adding that her role as Winnie in “Is’Thunzi” became her saving grace.
“I gave it the last of everything I had, that by the time I got the call back, I had nothing left. I’d secretly made the decision not to do the callback because I had nothing left to give,” Mbedu said. “Fortunately, I’d received a call that I did not need to do the callback because the role was mine.”
Mbedu continued: “I was in a dark place at the time. The character, the role, the opportunity was a much-needed light. I told myself that I would act as if it was the last character I would play. And through a great script, and an amazing director. I earned two international Emmy nominations for that role.
The Power Women Summit (PWS) is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The event aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s PWS provides two days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe – to promote this year’s theme, “A Time to Unite.” Learn more here: thewrap.com/pws.