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‘The Woman King’ robust pre-production moments with Thuso Mbedu

South African actress and star of the stirring historical fiction 'The Woman King' shares some of the film’s robust pre-production moments; from the vigorous training to the strict diet and how she bounced back from an exhausting year-long filming schedule.

In the Gina Prince-Bythewood directed ‘The Woman King‘, Dahomey is ruled by King Ghezo (played by John Boyega), who enlisted a ferocious platoon of female warriors known as the Agojie as his guard; among them is its youngest, newest recruit, Nawi, played by South African actress Thuso Mbedu and the group’s formidable leader, Nasisca (played by Oscar winner Viola Davis).

In order to capture the true spirit of the exceptional all-women military regiment with the much-needed bravura, Mbedu says part of her audition process required her to go through a rigorous diet and training under the guidance of renowned Hollywood stunt coordinator, Danny Hernandez (‘John Wick‘, ‘Avengers: End Games‘)

Along with nine months of rigorous pre-production physical training, Mbedu says they were put on a strict nutrition plan as part of ‘The Woman King’s robust pre-production moments;| Image: Thuso Mbedu’s Facebook.

“Part of my audition required that I take physical and fitness tests, and thankfully our stunt coordinator felt confident with whatever is it that I showcased in that moment. I fully trusted that he will get whatever he needed from me because I saw and liked what he did with the cast of ‘John Wick‘. Like he knows what he’s doing, and if he felt that there was hope for me, I could lean on that,” she says, adding: “But I did take it upon myself to go for more intense training and get private training as many times as I financially could to be ready for pre-production training. Then when we went into training, we did a combination of martial arts, running and strength training.”

The latter, she adds, was the hardest “because I never had any upper body strength before, but I had to build that up and get toned. I think it was during the second training session with our trainer Gabriela Mclain that I really felt it, I actually cried … like, it was hard. It was awful but I still had to it,” she says with a naughty giggle. “I had to push through it you know, and I think that was the day I emailed Gina and said to her ‘as hard as it was, I realised it was nothing compared to what my character would have gone through, as this would have been real life for her. So I was able to take what I was going through, emotionally, physically and mentally from training and apply it to my character.”

Mbedu and Hollywood’s renowned trainer Gabriela Mclain show off the intense training they undertook to tap into the Agojie’s bravura performance training for Sony Picture’s ‘The Woman King’ | Image: Facebook.

Mbedu also credit martial arts for ‘instilling discipline’ in her and helping her body not only cope with the robust schedule, but cultivate a healthy mental state. “It changed me mentally, it increased my drive. I wanted to do better, I wanted to be better.” She adds: “And those are the lessons I took from th training regime. I absolutely fell in love with it, which is why I still continue with it even months after we wrapped shooting.”

Along with about nine months of rigorous physical training, Mbedu says they were put on a strict nutrition plan recommended by Hollywood’s renowned strength trainer and nutritionist, Gabriela Mclain.

“She did a DNA test on us before we started training with her, which determined what would be the best cause of action to achieve the results she needed. So Viola’s plan would be a little different from mine, and so is John’s because our are different, and we’re wired differently. Essentially for me because my body genetically can’t process saturated fat, so we had to cut that out completely. In addition to that, I had to get about 8-hour of sleep to be at my best.”

Thuso Mbedu and John Boyega sweating it out with the cast of ‘The Woman King’ in Johannesburg during her recent promotional tour to South Africa | Image: NOWinSA.

The Woman King‘ is on show at local cinemas (Ster-Kinekor and Nu Metro) country-wide.

Tankiso Komane
Tankiso Komane
A Tshwane University of Technology journalism graduate, Tankiso Komane has a vast experience in print & broadcast media business and has worked for some of the country’s biggest daily newspapers, including The Sowetan, The Citizen, The Times, and The New Age. Through her varied work as a journalist, notably as a copywriter for SABC1 (On-Air promotions) and as a publicist for Onyx Communications, she has developed an in-depth understanding of the nature of the media business and how to use it for the purpose of exposure. Her expertise in journalism across various disciplines, coupled with a good reputation, has laid the foundation of a new kind "trust in Journalism" as the media ecosystem continues to digitally evolve.
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