Roughly five years ago, there were rumblings that a newly minted star and Oscar winner named Lupita Nyong’o would star in a film adaptation of the literary sensation of the moment, a book called Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Americanah is a love story between Ifemelu and her high school sweetheart, Obinze. In 2014, it was announced that Nyong’o was set to play Ifemelu, the Nigerian protagonist of the story, who moves to the United States, where she begins to have her first American experiences of racism. David Oyelowo was set to play Obinze, and Brad Pitt‘s production company, Plan B, was reportedly involved as well.
But a couple of years passed, and the project never came to be. In 2018, there was an update: Nyong’o told The Hollywood Reporter that she would adapt Americanah for the small screen as a miniseries instead, and produce it herself.
Ultimately, it was the length of the story—the book is over 600 pages—that made Wyong’o think it would be better as a series than a film. “It’s very hard to reduce just to a movie,” she told AnOther. “We discovered that, while we were trying to adapt it, we needed more time.”
Now, the project is finally coming to fruition. Nyong’o and her Black Panther co-star Danai Gurira are reuniting to turn Americanah into a 10-part limited series to debut next year on HBO Max. Nyong’o remains the star of the show, playing Ifemelu, but the role of Obinze will now go to Zackary Momoh, who recently starred alongside Cynthia Erivo as John Tubman in Harriet.
Pitt is still listed as a producer for all 10 episodes on the show’s IMDb page, and Gurira will not only co-executive produce with Nyong’o (the two operate a production company called Eba Productions) but will also write the pilot and serve as the series showrunner.
And to make the series all the more exciting, Uzo Aduba has been cast in another main role on the series. She will play Aunty Uju, Ifemelu’s aunt who left Nigeria for America.
Ndongo’s fell in love with Americanah as soon as the book came out in 2013, before she had even made her film debut in 12 Years A Slave. Apparently, she attempted multiple times to get the rights to the novel from Adichie, which she revealed in a cover story interview with AnOther magazine. “Just before 12 Years came out, I pre-ordered that book and I could not put it down,” she said. “To see an African woman whose identity was in a flux in the way that Ifemelu’s is in the book just spoke so deeply to me. I could not stop thinking about it so I immediately contacted her.”
“I had no stars or stripes to my name except, ‘I’m an actress from Kenya and I read your book and I love it and I’m going to be in this movie called 12 Years a Slave,'” she went on. “I had no idea what that meant anyway, but I knew I wanted to make this.” And now she will.