Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has been forced to drop out of the HBO Max series Americanah due to a scheduling issue stemming from the pandemic, and as a result, the project won’t be moving forward at the streaming service, Collider has confirmed.
Nyong’o had teamed with her Black Panther co-star Danai Gurira on the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s acclaimed novel, which had been ordered straight-to-series and slated to start shooting earlier this year. When Americanah‘s production dates got pushed back, Nyong’o was forced to drop out due to other commitments. It would’ve been her first role in an American TV series.
Rather than try and find a new lead, HBO Max scrapped the entire project, which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me — unless Nyong’o was simply the only reason the streamer was involved in the first place. But you have to think that if HBO Max truly cared about this story, it’d find a way to move forward with a different actress. It’s a curious decision, to say the least.
I can’t imagine how Gurira feels about this news, as the Tony-nominated playwright was set to serve as writer and showrunner on the 10-episode series in addition to executive producing alongside Nyong’o, who would’ve starred alongside Uzo Aduba, Corey Hawkins, Zackary Momoh and Tireni Oyenusi.
There’s no question that Americanah was a longtime passion project for Nyong’o, who initially tried to turn it into a movie in which she would’ve starred opposite David Oyelowo. In 2018, Nyong’o announced that the book would be adapted as a series, and now, due to the pandemic, the project is sadly dead, as is Oyelowo’s Showtime series The President Is Missing, based on the bestselling book by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. They are hardly the only shows affected, as Netflix also pulled the plug on GLOW.
Americanah would have followed 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, 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.
I’d love to know what project presented Nyong’o with a scheduling issue, as she really doesn’t have much on her plate (that I’m aware of) besides a heist movie with Rihanna that will probably never get made. In fact, its director, Ava DuVernay, just signed on to direct another movie for Netflix titled Caste. It would certainly be ironic if Lupita’s press responsibilities for The 355 prevented her from doing another empowering project in Americanah. I just think it’s a shame that her exit led to HBO Max scrapping the entire project, but I suppose she can only be in one place at a time, since this isn’t Us we’re talking about.