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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel Americanah is headed to the screen. A limited series based on the book will debut on the upcoming HBO Max streaming platform in 2020. Below, everything we know about the new series—and how to watch it.
When will it be released?
Variety confirmed in September 2019 that Americanah received a straight-to-series order from HBO Max. Although no official premiere date has been set, Variety reported that HBO Max will debut in May 2020. It’s unknown when the show will be available to watch.
What’s it about?
Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu (N’Yongo), a young, beautiful, self-assured woman raised in Nigeria, who as a teenager falls in love with her classmate Obinze (Zackary Momoh). Living in a military-ruled country, they each depart for the west, with Ifemelu heading for America, where, despite her academic success, she 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 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.”
Who is involved?
Lupita Nyong’o has been attached to the project as Ifemelu since 2014, as reported by Variety. When Americanah found a home at HBO Max as a limited series in 2019, Nyong’o released the following statement:
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. 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.”
Nyong’o’s statement references the involvement of her Black Panther co-star and The Walking Dead cast member Danai Gurira. Gurira wrote the pilot and will serve as showrunner on the 10-episode limited series, according to Deadline. “Through Americanah, Chimamanda brought the African female voice into mainstream consciousness in an unprecedented way,” Gurira said in a statement. “It is intellectually incisive, indicting, yet full of humor, and riddled with humanity. She makes unheard voices familiar, universal and yet palpably specific. I am honored to bring her incredible novel to life on the screen.”
On December 17, 2019, Deadline reported that Zackary Momoh (Harriet, Seven Seconds) would co-star alongside Nyong’o as Obinze.
That same day, Variety announced that Orange Is the New Black Emmy winner Uzo Adbua would join the cast. According to the outlet, she’ll play Aunty Uju, Ifemelu’s “young aunt and confidant.” Her character is a doctor who left Nigeria “under tumultuous circumstances and has resettled in America to build a better life for herself and her son Dike.”
In January, THR reported that Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, In the Heights) was cast in the project. He’ll play Blaine, a Yale professor and Ifemelu’s devoted present-day boyfriend. “Deeply passionate about social justice issues, he tutors at-risk youths and organizes protests when a black security guard at Yale is wrongly accused,” per THR.
That same month, HBO Max announced that Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency) would direct the show’s first two episodes. “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 for 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.”
Wait, wasn’t there supposed to be an Americanah movie?
Variety reported in June 2014, four months after Nyong’o won the Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, that the actress would be starring in and producing an Americanah movie. Six months later, the outlet reported that David Oyelowo would co-star alongside Nyong’o.
In 2015, Oyelowo confirmed to USA Today that his follow-up to Ava DuVernay’s Selma would be Americanah. He said, “We have to find a director and a writer and all that good stuff. We’ll be playing a couple in that. It’s an epic story that follows these two Nigerians who fall in love in high school, and she goes off to America and he goes off to the U.K. They basically are suddenly immigrants in these countries. He goes back and becomes affluent again in Nigeria and it’s their journey back to each other.”
Alas, that project never materialized and by 2019 was ordered as a limited series at HBO Max with Nyong’o and Plan B Entertainment’s involvement retained. Oyelowo and Nyong’o later co-starred in 2016’s Queen of Katwe.
How do I find Americanah on HBO Max?
As is the case with other new streaming services including AppleTV+ and Disney+, it’s key to know how to access the platforms’ content. According to the brand’s website, HBO Max will bundle HBO, WarnerMedia, and Max originals for $14.99 per month.
Acquired content includes all 10 seasons of Friends (sorry to this Netflix) and all 23 of South Park. And other originals to look forward to include the highly-anticipated Gossip Girl reboot. The service will be available at HBOMax.com and free to new and existing HBO Now subscribers. AT&T subscribers who get HBO will also receive HBO Max at no extra charge. The company says more details regarding HBO subscribers’ access to the service will be provided as the launch date nears.