EXCLUSIVE: Tessa Thompson is moving into production in a major way with a new production company, a first-look deal at HBO and HBO Max and exec producing two big book adaptations – Who Fears Death and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.
The Westworld star has launched Viva Maude with a two-year deal at the WarnerMedia-owned cable network and streaming service.
Thompson said, “I’m beyond thrilled to officially launch my production company, Viva Maude, which has been a real passion project and labour of love over the last few years. I’m elated to begin this partnership and to bring entertaining and impactful television projects to my friends and collaborators at HBO and HBO Max. Together we are committed to developing interesting and inclusive stories with inventive creators and to discover new voices and visionaries.”
Thompson, who stars in and exec produces Amazon feature film Sylvie’s Love, will exec produce these two projects in development at HBO and HBO Max as part of the deal.
Who Fears Death is an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s eponymous book. In the works at HBO since 2017 with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin as one of the exec producers, Aïda Mashaka Croal, a writer on Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, has also come board as showrunner, writer and exec producer.
The trio join Angela Mancuso and Michael Lombardo as EPs with Okorafor as co-exec producer.
Who Fears Death tells the coming of age tale of Onyesowu in post-apocalyptic North Africa where her story makes her an outcast. She must go on a journey from self-reproach to love, but to do so she’ll have to overcome untold obstacles—defeating her hated sorcerer father and becoming the instrument of prophetic deliverance for a land of oppressed people, all the while fighting to master the terrifying powers growing inside her.
At HBO Max, Thompson is also exec producing an adaptation of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. The short story collection, written by Deesha Philyaw, was published in September and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. It contains nine stories about Black women, church, and sexuality.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. Different generations of women characters grapple with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions. With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.
Thompson will exec produce with author Philyaw, who is also writing the adaptation.
Thompson’s other credits include Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Endgame, Annihilation, Sorry to Bother You, Selma, and Dear White People and she co-stars alongside Ruth Negga in Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut feature film Passing as well as Creed III and Thor: Love and Thunder. She is also a producer on QCode’s fiction podcast The Left Right Game, which Amazon purchased the rights to adapt into a television series, with Thompson exec producing the series.
Thompson is repped by WME, Mosaic and lawyer Jeffrey Bernstein at Jackoway, Austen, Tyerman. Deesha Philyaw is repped by Gotham, Upstart Crow and Blue Flower Arts.