Malube Uhindu-Gingala knew from watching movies with her parents at a young age that she wanted to perform. Fast forward years later, wherein Malube’s amassed a significant body of work, including roles in HBO Max’s Titans, Netflix’s Buffaloed and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Now, Malube can be seen opposite Vera Farmiga in Apple TV Plus’s Five Days at Memorial, a compelling miniseries illustrating the difficulties one New Orleans hospital faces once Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Malube’s character, Tarika Hill, is a nurse who assists doctors as they struggle to treat their patients.
I had the privilege of chatting with Malube about portraying Tarika in Five Days at Memorial, what audiences can expect, her origin story, what’s on the horizon and more.
This interview is condensed for length and clarity.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Malube Uhindu-Gingala’s origin story?
Malube Uhindu-Gingala: I was born in Montreal. My name comes from my grandmother’s name. Before I was born, my parents were like, “Okay, how can we give her an African name that means something?” They put my grandmother’s name, my maternal grandmother’s name and that of my dad, which is my paternal grandmother’s name. They took a couple of letters out of each name and made Malube.
MM: Oh, that’s beautiful.
MUG: I love telling that story because it’s like the legacy lives on through my name. It’ll always be there, and I have a piece of everyone. I moved to Toronto when I was a child. Even before then, my parents were very much into film.
We would watch movies together so many times. I remember watching Waiting to Exhale. I remember Angela Bassett was Bernadine. Her husband tells her he’s leaving her for another woman after 11 years. In that scene, she monologues about how their marriage was trashed, and she was never happy and sacrificed everything for this marriage.
I felt her pain, even though I was a kid. That’s when I knew this was an actual job she was doing. Her feeling this way made me feel this way. I wanted to do that.
MM: Let’s talk about Five Days at Memorial. Can you tell me what it’s about and how you got involved with the project?
MUG: It’s based on a true story, and it’s also based on the book Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. It’s a horrific account of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in 2005. In this series, we get an inside look at the lives surrounding Memorial and how they deal with this tragedy during the first five days of the hurricane.
I play Tarika Hill, and she’s a dedicated nurse at Memorial Hospital. When I got this audition last year, I was auditioning for two other things. This audition was live, whereas most of my auditions at that time were self-tape. I read the script and said, “I have to do this because this is so cool.”
I said yes to the appointment and practiced it as much as possible. I showed up and did it; then, I let it go for about a month and a half. I’d forgotten about it. I was living my life and saw I missed a call from my agent. I called her back, and she’s like, “You booked Tarika Hill,” and I was like, “Tarika Hill?”
I was so happy. I was crying. You audition for so many things, so I learned not to let my heart get attached, to do my best and move on. I called my mother first and then my acting coach.
MM: That’s so hard to do when it’s something you really want. It takes a lot of discipline to let it go and leave it to the universe and go about your life. I don’t know if I would be able to do that.
MUG: It takes practice. It’s like surrendering. One thing I was doing a lot during that time that I still do is pray a lot. It’s something I do every day. It helps me surrender because I’m already affirming, “I got this.” Whatever is meant to be will come to me.
MM: How did you get into the right headspace for such a high-stakes, life-or-death-type situation?
MUG: I did a lot of research. I tried to remember what I was doing when it was happening. To be honest, I think I was playing and hanging out with friends because I was so young. As soon as I got the role, I ordered the book. The book is such a great guide. It’s got pictures and references. There are a lot of resources and interviews Sherri Fink has done talking about Memorial Hospital.
That was the first part of it. When I got there, it was a completely different ball game because we were in our scrubs, had our props, were on set, and the set really got me. It took me to another place.
MM: Describe the show using four words.
MUG: Revealing. Engaging. Surprising. Captivating.
MM: What can audiences expect from this miniseries?
MUG: I know what I expect from it because I was in it. I know I’ll be sad because it’s inevitable what happened. I know I’ll be caught up in this story because I know the story. I know it was shot well, and I’ll be getting a sneak peek at what [the characters are] feeling, their inner journey. Storytelling can elicit so many feelings within a human being.
The audience can expect clarification about Hurricane Katrina and what happened at the hospital. I think it was a great idea to turn this into a limited series because when I watch the news, and it’s something that doesn’t necessarily pertain to me or anyone close to me, I’ll be sad, but then I’ll move on.
MM: I do the same thing.
MUG: Exactly. It’s what we do. But this time, we get to invest in the story, the characters and how they react to the tragedy.
MM: Do you have a highlight or a favorite moment from shooting the series?
MUG: We filmed this scene silently on camera. Some of the hospital staff and I witnessed something happening in the city, and we reacted differently to what was happening. John Ridley, who was directing this episode, showed us the scene in the playback and every different expression we had. I’m like, “This is why I love film.” There’s so much story and interpretation going on in our faces. That was one of my favorite moments.
MM: What else is on the horizon for you, career-wise?
MUG: I have a film that came out on Lifetime in June called Trapped with My Husband. I play the lead’s best friend and support system, Mary Ann. I also have a Christmas film coming out. It’s a lot lighter than Five Days at Memorial.
MM: It’s a bit of a palate cleanser.
MUG: Exactly. I love these films because they find so much hope during the season. It’s a different ball game. So, that’s what I have going on right now.
MM: What are you watching right now?
MUG: The Sex Lives of College Girls. It’s so good. I’m watching it because it’s a comedy, and empathizing with the girls. They’re 18 and in college while experiencing things for the first time. I’m also binge-watching 9-1-1 with Angela Bassett. It’s amazing. The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer inspired me to start watching 9-1-1.
MM: Oh, that trailer broke me.
MUG: I’m not going to make it out of the theater in one piece.
MM: I don’t think anybody will. Thank you so much for chatting with me, Malube! Congratulations on Five Days at Memorial!
MUG: Thank you, Melody!
This interview was originally posted on 8/23/22.
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