Chinonye Chukwu, in the awards conversation this season for her Sundance-winning death row drama Clemency, has been set to direct the first two episodes of HBO Max’s Americanah. The 10-episode limited series, written and showrun by Danai Gurira, stars Lupita Nyong’o, Zackary Momoh, Uzo Aduba and Corey Hawkins.
The series will premiere on HBO Max, the upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service set to launch in the spring. The news was revealed during the streamer’s turn Wednesday at the TCA winter press tour.
Based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel, Americanah tells the epic story of Ifemelu (Nyong’o), a 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.
Plan B Entertainment is executive producing with Gurira, Nyong’o, Andrea Calderwood, Didi Rea, Danielle Del, Nancy Won and Erika L. Johnson.
“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 at 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.”
Chukwu wrote and directed Clemency, which starred Alfre Woodard and won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year. The Neon pic scored two Gotham Awards noms and has three Spirit Awards noms (for Chukwu’s screenplay, Woodard for actress and Clemency for best feature).
She is also attached to direct an adaptation of Black Panther leader Elaine Brown’s memoir A Taste of Power.
Chukwu is repped by CAA, Gochman Law Group and Grandview.