On Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, the miniseries Madiba premieres on BET. Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne portrays Nelson Mandela in the series, which will provide a personal, comprehensive look at Mandela's inspiring life and heroic leadership of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. His story is so compelling that it seems as though no artistic license will be necessary, but how accurate is BET's Nelson Mandela miniseries Madiba?
Madiba is directly based on two of Mandela's autobiographies, Conversations With Myself and Nelson Mandela by Himself, which certainly bodes well for its accuracy. According to the series' official page, Madiba will "[focus] on the man and his innermost thoughts and fears as he fought and sacrificed for freedom to become an international icon." In addition to drawing heavily from Mandela's own words, the series was filmed in South Africa, which will undoubtedly bring an added level of authenticity to the series.
In an interview with The Washington Times, Fishburne spoke about the time he spent in South Africa filming the series. The actor met with both Zelda la Grange, who was Mandela's personal secretary for the last 20 years of his life, and Ahmed Kathrada, who spent time in prison with Mandela.
“Because we were in [Johannesburg], we were shooting in a lot of locations where all of this history really happened,” Fishburne told the outlet. "You could feel sort of the energy of what transpired in that country... It’s still very fresh," he added, referencing the fact that the apartheid ended just over two decades ago.
Although the script is based on Mandela's biographies, Madiba covers more than just his personal story — the ambitious series also depicts the government's violent efforts to stop protests at all costs, and the emergence of new leaders such as Steve Biko. And, for anyone who knows the basics of Mandela's story but hasn't delved into his books, Madiba will provide a great deal of new information. According to Broadway World, the series includes depictions of the "behind-the-scenes strategizing and bold organizing tactics" used by Mandela and his collaborators in an effort to generate national and international attention to their movement.
The writers, cast, and crew put a great deal of effort into making Madiba accurate to both Mandela's life and the events in South Africa that drove him to action. The miniseries will double as a history lesson and, as multiple outlets have noted, its themes of racial unrest and political injustice are relevant to 2017.