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Madiba's Laurence Fishburne Reveals How He Prepared to Play Nelson Mandela

Was he intimidated?

Malcolm Venable

In Madiba, BET's three-part mini-series based on autobiographies of Nelson Mandela, Laurence Fishburne undertakes the gigantic task of portraying Mandela, one of the most revered public figures of all time. The series' name itself, with roots going back to an 18th century chief, is the moniker for Mandela that conveys deep admiration and respect.

For people around the world who saw Mandela released from prison on TV in 1990 after being jailed for fighting the country's racist apartheid system and then go on to become president of the country and then become a global ambassador for peace, Mandela is a larger-than-life persona. Surely Fishburne was intimidated and drove himself mad trying to get this giant down perfectly, right?

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If so, we'll never know. In this video, Fishburne displays a reverent calm in describing how he prepared for the role -- work that involved going to South Africa as well as meeting Mandela's contemporaries, including Ahmed Kathrada, and reading some of Mandela's books "pretty much every day." But hey, when you're Laurence Fishburne -- who's played everyone from Morpheus (The Matrix) to Othello to Ike Turner to Thurgood Marshall (Thurgood) to beloved grump Pops on Black-ish -- big roles are a piece of cake, right?

Madiba airs Wednesday Feb. 1 at 8/7c on BET.