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There are a handful of roles that every good actor is more than honored to play. So when Laurence Fishburne was asked to portray Nelson Mandela in a new miniseries, he didn’t hesitate. At first.

“I was offered the part. I said ‘yes’ immediately, was completely honored to be asked. And then, 15 minutes later, panic set in. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’” recalled the Emmy- and Tony Award-winner.

Fishburne put aside his fears when he learned he’d be filming exclusively in South Africa with South African actors helping tell the story Mandela told in his own autobiographies.

“Our storytelling is really about the man, more so than the myth. We’ve tried to reveal how the man became the myth,” he said. “It was a life-changing experience.”

The result is “Madiba,” a six-hour film broadcast over three nights on BET starting Wednesday. It takes its title from the clan name of Mandela, who became one of the world’s most beloved statesmen.

The star of “The Matrix” and “Man of Steel” has played real people before — Thurgood Marshall and Ike Turner — but Mandela is in a special class. “There’s Christ. There’s Gandhi,” he said, listing options. “A couple of Shakespearian kings and queens, if you will. Popes. Some Roman emperors. And perhaps a few gods, some Olympian gods.”

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source:  AP/Mark Kennedy

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