HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Lupita Nyong'o (L) and Danai Gurira attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Film

Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira’s takes Chimamanda’s AMERICANAH to cinema

Lupita Nyong'o and fellow 'Black Panther' cast mate Danai Gurira are turning Chimamanda Adichie's 'Americanah' into a miniseries.

The long-awaited on-screen adaptation of Chimamanda’s bestseller, Americanah, is finally coming to life as a ten-episode HBO series starring Lupita Nyong’o and directed by Danai Gurira.

This good news was shared by Lupita Nyong’o during a recent Vogue magazine interview published on March 18, 2019.

According to the ‘Black Panther’ actress, Adichie’s novel is one of the exciting projects she has lined up for this year.

“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.”

The duo of Nyong’o and Gurira have become a formidable force in Hollywood when it comes to their devotion to telling authentic African stories and especially the stories of women. These days, of course, they’re both best known for their lead roles in 2018 blockbuster Black Panther set in the Marvel-created African country of Wakanda.

Americanah is about two young people a girl Ifemulu and a boy Obinze who fell in love at a bad moment when they had to depart military ruled Nigeria for the western countries. Beautiful and strong Ifemulu heads for America, where despite her academic success she has to learn what it means to be black through a hard way for the first time. Thoughtful Obinze had planned to join her but due to troubles he instead goes to London. They reunite fifteen years later in a new Nigeria land and restart their love and passion.

Thematically, the story of Ifemelu and Obinze is as true an African story today as it was in the times of repressive military rule in Nigeria that it was set in. Nigeria still continues to see a massive outflow of people with the rising migration of even comfortable middle-class Nigerians, as the country fails to live up to their expectations. In the global context of rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the West, backed by right-wing, populist leaders in power, it can be expected that a challenging undocumented life in the West awaits some of those who leave.

Things have come a long way from the generic Africa accent, cliché African stories, and generalizations, but there is always more that can be done to assuage doubts and concerns in a more connected social media world. For example, news of the Americanah TV show has been met with skepticism from some Nigerians who would rather see a Nigerian woman playing the lead role. It wasn’t too long ago when having anyone African in the lead roles in a Hollywood project like this would have been remarkable in itself.

With more films and series telling African stories, with Africans in front and behind the scenes, there’s hope for more authenticity in representation.

Americanah has been a passion project for Nyong’o, the Kenyan-born Oscar winner, who optioned the rights in 2014 after falling in love with the novel. Zimbabwean-American Gurira, too on her part, is no stranger to adapting African stories. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway show, Eclipsed, that tells the story of war in Liberia from women’s point of view.

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