HBO Max has given a straight-to-series order to Americanah, a long-time passion project of Lupita Nyong’o. The Oscar-winning 12 Years Of Slave standout will star in and executive produce the limited series based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s best-selling novel of the same name. Nyong’o’s Black Panther co-star Danai Gurira wrote the pilot and will serve as showrunner on the 10-episode limited series, which hails from Plan B Entertainment, Potboiler Television and D2 Productions.
Americanah tells the epic story of Ifemelu (Nyong’o), a young, beautiful, self-assured woman raised in Nigeria, who as a teenager falls in love with her classmate Obinze. Living in a military-ruled country, they each depart for the west, with Ifemelu heading for America, where, despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple for the first time with what it means to be black. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous undocumented life in London.
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The book is hailed as an incredible exploration of the human experience that crosses three continents to give an empathetic, compelling view of the complex realities of race, politics, immigration and identity.
“Americanah has sparked a cultural phenomenon and is revered by fans around the world. It has affected me deeply as one of the most moving, socially relevant and romantic stories of our time,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “With exceptional talent like Lupita and Danai in front of and behind the camera, this series will give viewers a uniquely heartfelt and unforgettable experience.”
The series will be executive produced by Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o for Eba Productions, Plan B Entertainment, Andrea Calderwood (Generation Kill) for Potboiler Television, Didi Rea and Danielle Del for D2 Productions, and Nancy Won (Jessica Jones).
“Americanah has been a passion project for me since I read Chimamanda’s beautiful novel in 2013. It’s a tale that is simultaneously timely and timeless,” said Nyong’o. “HBO Max is the perfect partner to bring this profound and celebrated story to life, and I’m thrilled that Danai will bring to the project her intelligence, wit, and understanding of the stories and the worlds of Americanah.”
Indeed, soon after Americanah was published, Nyong’o optioned it and teamed with 12 Years of Slave producer, Plan B, as well as D2 Productions and Potboiler Productions, for a feature adaptation with her attached to star and produce. The film was announced in 2014.
By 2018, Nyong’o had recruited her Black Panther co-star Gurira to join the project, which had morphed into a limited series. This marks Nyong’o and Gurira’s latest collaboration. In addition to them co-starring together in Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame, Nyong’o toplined Gurira’s play Eclipsed, about four women held as sexual slaves by a warlord during the Liberian civil war. The play earned Gurira a Tony nomination.
“Through Americanah, Chimamanda brought the African female voice into mainstream consciousness in an unprecedented way. It is intellectually incisive, indicting, yet full of humor, and riddled with humanity. She makes unheard voices familiar, universal and yet palpably specific,” said Gurira. “I am honored to bring her incredible novel to life on the screen. I’m thrilled to collaborate once again with Lupita who brings her astounding ability as a performer and producer shepherding this project, along with HBO Max’s unbridled enthusiasm to bring this groundbreaking narrative to the TV audience.”
Nyong’o, who won a supporting actress Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, will next be seen alongside Alexander England and Josh Gad in horror comedy Little Monsters, a new Hulu original film. She also is re-teaming with the principals behind Little Monsters on an untitled sci-fi comedy for Universal, written and directed by Abe Forsythe.