EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Prime Video is developing Wild Seed, a drama series based on the first book in Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed Patternist sci-fi series, from Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions.
Co-written by award-winning sci-fi novelist Nnedi Okorafor and Rafiki filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu who is set to direct, Wild Seed is a love (and hate) story of two African immortals who travel the ages from pre-Colonial West Africa to the far, far future. Doro, a killer who uses his power to breed people like livestock, encounters Anyanwu, a healer who forces him to reassess his millennia of cruel behavior: for centuries, their personal battles change the course of our world as they struggle against the backdrop of time — master vs slave, man vs woman, killer vs healer.
Davis, Tennon and Andrew Wang, JuVee’s head of television development, executive produce with Kahiu, Okorafor, along with Ernestine Walker and Merrilee Heifetz with the Octavia E. Butler estate.
Wild Seed was the first tome chronologically and third to be published in the five-book Patternmaster series from Science Fiction Hall of Famer Butler, who died in 2006 at the age of 58.
“Wild Seed is a book that shifted my life,” said Davis. “It is as epic, as game changing, as moving and brilliant as any Science Fiction novel ever written. Julius and I are proud to have this masterpiece in our hands. It fullﬁlls our promise and legacy to be disrupters. Octavia Butler was a visionary and we look forward to honoring the scope of her work and sharing it with the world.”
JuVee had pursued the rights to the book for over two years, but it wasn’t until they identified rising talent Kahiu, who was tapped to direct as well as write the pilot with her friend and colleague Okorafor, that the vision became clear on how to turn the beloved book into a TV show. With their idea for a TV series, and the Butler estate’s blessings, the project was taken to the marketplace with multiple bids.
Kahiu and Okorafor both attribute aspects of their career paths to reading Butler’s Wild Seed, in which they saw that there was a voice for women of color and that they too could be that voice. They both identify themselves as Africanfuturists. Kahiu has often referred to her aesthetic as Afro Bubblegum Art.
“We love Octavia Butler and her work and have for decades. But Wild Seed is our favorite. It’s expansive, disturbing, and unique, said Kahiu and Okafor. “Wild Seed stays with you. It’s a love/hate story of African immortals that connects people on the African continent to the Diaspora. It merges the mystical and the scientific seamlessly. You’re going to see shape-shifting, body jumping, telepaths, people born with the ability to defy the laws of physics, all in the context of our past, present and future world.”
Kahiu most recently directed and wrote the acclaimed LGBTQ feature Rafiki, which made history last year as the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was also selected for the Toronto International Film Festival, BFI London International Film Festival and AFI Fest, among others.
Okorafor is an international novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Okarafor’s books include Binti, which was the winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella and was optioned by Media Res; and Who Fears, which is currently in development at HBO with George R. R. Martin and Michael Lombardo. Her novel, The Book of Phoenix, was a finalist for both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her Akata Series won the 2018 Locus Award and the 2018 Lodestar award for the World Science Fiction Society Award for Best Young Adult Book.
Butler was a renowned African-American writer who received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award, in addition to Nebula and Hugo awards, given for the best works in the science-fiction genre. Acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories, Butler’s work is translated into 12 foreign languages and her books are taught in over 400 college courses. A graphic novel version of Kindred won an Eisner Award for Best Adaptation and reached the #1 spot on the New York Times Graphic Novel Best Seller List. Both Kindred and Dawn are currently in development for television, with Ava DuVernay, Charles D. King’s Macro and Victoria Mahoney shepherding the Dawn adaptation.
“We couldn’t think of more perfect partners to bring Octavia’s feminist century-spanning epic to life than Viola Davis, JuVee Productions and the brilliant creative team of Wanuri Kahiu and Nnedi Okorafor — and we are so excited to be working with the tenacious and passionate Amazon team, whose enthusiasm for Wild Seed seems immeasurable,” said Ernestine Walker and Merrilee Heifetz, the Octavia E. Butler Estate and Literary Executor. “We have complete faith in this vision for her work, which will thrill the readers who have loved these novels for decades, as well as bring new fans, both to the page and to what is sure to be an important and mind-blowing adaptation.”
JuVee Productions is repped by CAA , The Lasher Group and attorney James M. Feldman of Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler Feldman and Clark. Kahiu is repped by CAA and Gotham Group. Okorafor is repped by WME with Donald Maass and Gotham Group. The Butler Estate is repped by Anonymous Content on behalf of Writers House.