HBO Max, the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia set to launch in the spring, announced Wednesday that Sundance award-winning director Chinonye Chukwu (“Clemency”) will direct the first two episodes of its limited drama “Americanah.”
Based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s best-selling novel of the same name, “Americanah” is an epic story of a woman born in Nigeria who leaves for America and her extraordinary experiences with love, heartache, adversity and self-discovery. The 10-episode limited series will star Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”; “Black Panther”), Zackary Momoh (“Harriet”), Emmy Award winner Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”), and Tony Award nominee Corey Hawkins (“In the Heights”; “BlacKkKlansman”). Tony Award nominee Danai Gurira (“Black Panther”; “Eclipsed”) will serve as showrunner and writer.
“Fresh off her Sundance Grand Jury Prize for ‘Clemency,’ we are thrilled to have Chinonye direct the first two episodes of ‘Americanah.’ ” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “When she spoke so passionately about what it meant to her as a Nigerian filmmaker to tell this story, we knew we had the perfect partner to work alongside Danai, Lupita and Plan B.”
Nigerian-born Chukwu wrote and directed the film “Clemency,” starring Alfre Woodard, which was released in December to rave reviews. She received the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2019 for the film, making history as the first black woman to receive this award. This year, “Clemency” was nominated for two Gotham awards along with Chukwu being nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay, Woodard for best actress, and “Clemency” for best feature. Chukwu is attached to direct an adaptation of former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown’s memoir, “A Taste of Power.”
“Americanah” tells the 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 (Momoh). Living in a military-ruled country, they each depart for the west. Ifemelu heads for America, where she finds academic success, but 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.
A press release stated, “A highly lauded tale that has become a leader in the cultural conversation, ‘Americanah’ is 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.”