Since Lupita Nyong’o snapped the rights to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s signature novel Americanah, there has been increasing buzz on the status of the project, from David Oyelowo’s initial attachment to play Obinze to its switch from feature film to TV series to the announcement of Danai Gurira as showrunner to the Nollywood controversy that trailed its acquisition by HBO Max.
Following the recent announcement that the Emmy-winning Nigerian American actress Uzo Aduba and the British Nigerian actor Zachary Momoh have joined the cast, Brittle Paper keeps you updated as regards who will play who.
Lupita Nyong’o as Ifemelu
Born in Mexico City in 1983, Lupita directed, edited and produced the documentary In My Genes, which followed the stories of several Kenyans who are living with albinism. She also took on a lead role in Kenyan television in Shuga, an MTV/UNICEF-backed series that looked at sexual relationships among young people in Nairobi, aiming to promote HIV awareness and safe sex.
Lupita attended the Yale School of Drama, finishing in 2012. That same year, she landed a role in Steve McQueen’s drama 12 Years a Slave as Patsey, a young slave enduring horrific abuse in the hands of her abusive master. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the movie. Lupita has gone on to star in such acclaimed movies as The Jungle Book, Queen of Katwe, the blockbuster Marvel comic Black Panther and, most recently, the horror film Us. The Nigerian publisher Narrative Landscape Press recently acquired her children’s book Sulwe.
Lupita plays Ifemelu, the protagonist. Ifemelu is a strong-willed, self-assured woman who, as a teenager growing up in Lagos, falls in love with the quiet, dreamy Obinze. However, their country is under dictatorial military rule and, amongst other anomalies, university lecturers are perpetually on strike. Ifemelu departs for the US on scholarship. In the US, Ifemelu experiences gains and disapointments, all the while tottering under the weight of a concept she had been unfamiliar with: race.
Uzo Aduba as Aunty Uju
Born in Boston, Uzo Aduba made her Broadway debut in 2007, portraying Toby in Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of Coram Boy at the Imperial Theatre. Uzo Aduba’s breakout moment came in 2013 when she began portraying Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren in the Netflix comedy-drama series Orange is the New Black. For the role, she has won Emmys for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2014 and for Oustanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2015.
Uzo Aduba will play Aunty Uju, Ifemelu’s young, ambitious aunt and confidante. Aunty Uju is also a brilliant medical doctor who relocates to the United States in search of a better life for herself and her young son, Dike.
Zachary Momoh as Obinze
Zachary Momoh attended the Identity School of Acting. At 23, he became the youngest actor to play Othello in a major production. In 2018, Zachary appeared in Seven Seconds. He appears in Harriet.
Zachary Momoh plays Obinze. Obinze is an idealistic young man and a visionary, the only son of a literature professor with a deep admiration for America. Obinze encourages his girlfriend Ifemelu to accept her scholarship in the US, hoping to join her for postgraduate studies. But despite his qualifications, he is persistently denied entry into the US. Disillusioned, Obinze plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in the UK. Three years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in newly democratic Nigeria with a deep-seated disorientation and constant yearning for the unknown.
Born in Grinnel, Iowa to Zimbabwean parents, Danai Gurira earned an MFA in acting from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She won an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress for her role in the play In the Continuum, which she also co-wrote. She made her Broadway acting debut playing Martha Pentecost in a production of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. She received a Whiting Award. Her 2009 play Eclipsed was the first play with an all-black and female creative cast and team to premiere on Broadway .
In 2012, she joined the cast of AMC’s horror-drama series The Walking Dead. Her big film break came in 2018 when she appeared as Okoye in Black Panther, a role she reprised in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Gurira is the pilot writer and showrunner of the series. This is a third collaboration between her and Lupita, who appeared in Eclipsed and Black Panther.
There is no official date for the release of the Americanah series yet.