With the announcement of a series-adaption of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Americanah’ by HBO in September came a lot of skepticism amidst the excitement of everyone’s favorite book getting well-deserved screen time.
The skepticism was grounded mainly in the casting decision of Lupita Nyong’o, who optioned the rights to the books and has been a driving force in getting it to this level, playing Ifemelu. A recent update on the casts which would have American-Nigerian actress Uzo Aduba as Aunty Uju and British-Nigerian Zachary Momoh playing Obinze points at the possibility of the series leaning towards proper representation, while keeping the essence of the story together by a fantastic choice of actors.
Uzo Aduba is an Emmy award winner for her popular role as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on the widely successful series Orange Is The New Black and Zachary Momoh has starred in the Netflix limited series Seven Seconds and the controversial Harriet.
For both of these actors, Americanah would see them channeling their Nigerian identities strongly into their characters for the first time, a feat that historically hasn’t been completely seamless for many other British/American-Nigerian actors. While we cannot say how well Aunty Uju and Obinze would be well represented in the cultural bubbles they exist in, the fact of having people affiliated in some way with the origins of these characters shows that Lupita cares about getting the story right without risking its aesthetic value.
With the series still in production and nothing to make concrete judgments on how good or bad it will be just yet, what we can say however is that Lupita is in great company and while choosing relatively indigenous Nigerian actors to play these roles could have also worked (and can still work as there are tons of other characters who are yet to be cast) we know Americanah is off to a good start.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.