Laurence Fishburne is riveting as Nelson Mandela in ‘Madiba’

Laurence Fishburne earned an Oscar nomination for his part in one true-life story (“What’s Love Got to Do With It”) and could well win an Emmy for his starring role in another. In the limited series “Madiba,” which aired on BET in February, the “Black-ish” featured player takes center stage as Nelson Mandela. (Madiba was the name of Mandela’s Xhosa clan in Mvezo, where he was born to the Thembu royal family.)

This six-hour epic, helmed by Emmy winner Kevin Hooks, chronicles Mandela’s life from his early days as a lawyer in the 1940s to the 1950s when he first became involved in the fight against apartheid and his 27-year imprisonment to his subsequent release in 1990 and election to the presidency in 1994. Fishburne is rarely off the screen and his powerful performance was the key to “Madiba” scoring a perfect 100 at Rotten Tomatoes.

Orlando Jones and David Harewood portray Mandela’s fellow African National Congress leaders Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu respectively while Terry Pheto is captivating as his enigmatic wife Winnie Mandela.

That the limited series resonated with both critics and reviewers is due, in large part, to its source material: two books by its subject, “Conversations With Myself” and “Nelson Mandela by Himself.” Filming in the locations where the events depicted took place brought a level of realism rarely seen on television. Particularly striking were the scenes shot in the prison on Robben Island.


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