"The Underground Railroad's" Thuso Mbedu Tells Audiences to "Pace Themselves"

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·3 min read
"The Underground Railroad's" Thuso Mbedu Tells Audiences to "Pace Themselves"
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The Underground Railroad, which premieres on May 14 on Amazon Prime, is the kind of show that will inspire conversation, reflection—and reckoning. Directed by Moonlight's Barry Jenkins, the 10-part series depicts the brutal practice of slavery in the United States.

Based on Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Underground Railroad is set in an alternate version of the United States in which there was an actual system of subterranean trains transporting enslaved people to freedom in the 18th century. Our protagonist, 16-year-old Cora Randall (played by South African actress Thuso Mbedu), escapes a Georgia plantation after making it to a railroad stop.

Photo credit: Kyle Kaplan
Photo credit: Kyle Kaplan

While featuring a slightly fantastical premise, the book and its subsequent TV adaptation are grounded in gruesome—and very real—history. In other words, it's a lot to take in. Speaking to Oprah in an interview, Mbedu recommended viewers "pace themselves" while making their way through the ten episodes.

"You can watch in the comfort of your own home. You can pause. Take a walk, get some fresh air," she says. Adding to that, Mbedu advised viewers watch with other people or communicate with someone afterward. "Verbally process what is happening with someone that you trust. If you have someone you can talk about your feelings with, that goes a long way," she says.

Here's how to watch The Underground Railroad on Amazon.

All 10 episodes drop on Friday, May 14.

The entire season of The Underground Railroad drops on the same day. Speaking to Mbedu, Oprah shared her reaction to the harrowing first episode, which she watched with one of her daughter-girls from South Africa.

"I had to go outside. Stedman came out and said, 'What are you all doing? Trying to remind yourselves that you're not on a slave plantation?' And I said, Exactly! We're trying to remind ourselves that we have a life," she said.

Photo credit: Kyle Kaplan
Photo credit: Kyle Kaplan

The Underground Railroad is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime.

The show will premiere on Amazon Prime Video. According to the New York Times, some episodes of the Amazon-produced show cost more than the entire budget for Moonlight, Jenkins's Academy Award-winning film. If you're not already a subscriber, Prime Video membership costs $8.99 per month.

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Afterwards, you can read the book that inspired the show.

Oprah called The Underground Railroad, published in 2016, a book that would never leave her. She selected Whitehead's modern epic, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, as an Oprah's Book Club pick that year.

In an issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, Oprah wrote about her experience reading The Underground Railroad: "I couldn't read the book in one sitting. I had to stop, process what I'd read, let the anger and tears come, and then go back in. Cora is a fictional character, but her odyssey—a true heroine's journey—helped me to better understand the past, as well as where we are as a people today. And in the end, that's what great literature does. It doesn't tell you what to think or how to feel. It simply creates the space for those thoughts to happen on their own."

The Amazon Prime show largely sticks to the plot of Whitehead's novel, but diverges in enough places to make the reading experience all the more thrilling. You'll be cheering Cora on, yet again—but, as with the show, you may want to step away, take a walk, and process the story.

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