Netflix has ordered its first African original series, “Queen Sono,” a drama about a secret agent who fights crime while dealing with crises in her personal life. The series will launch globally in 2019.
“Queen Sono” stars veteran South African actress Pearl Thusi, who tweeted in an emotional video Monday that she “cannot wait for…every woman on this continent, and actually on this planet, to meet Queen Sono.” Of the deal with Netflix, she added: “It’s going to change the game for every artist on this continent.”
The announcement of the show comes barely a week after Erik Barmack, Netflix’s vice president of international originals, told a gathering in London that the company would begin commissioning original series in Africa starting in 2019.
Speaking about “Queen Sono” with South Africa’s Independent Online, Barmack said: “Taking talent like this and telling stories to the rest of the world puts Pearl in the same category as other strong female characters like Claire Underwood in ‘House of Cards’ and Jessica Jones.”
He added: “Over time, our roots will get deeper in Africa and South Africa, and we’re moving pretty quickly to that now, and plan to invest more in local content.”
“Queen Sono” was created by multi-hypenate comedian-turned-director Kagiso Lediga and is being executive produced by Tamsin Andersson. Lediga and Thusi last partnered on “Catching Feelings,” a dark romantic comedy about a young couple whose lives are turned upside-down when a celebrated older writer moves in with them. Netflix launched the movie globally earlier this year.
The streamer is upping its stakes in Africa, acquiring worldwide rights this year to “Lionheart,” by Nigeria’s Genevieve Nnaji, and landing an upcoming world premiere at Sundance for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Malawi-shot directorial debut, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.”
Netflix’s director of international original films, Funa Maduka, told Variety in Marrakesh earlier this month that such moves are “just the beginning” for the streamer’s plans for the continent. “Africa is birthplace to one of the oldest storytelling traditions in the world. It also has a rich cinematic history,” she said. “The talent is here and we want to present ourselves as an option as they choose the best path to connect their stories with audiences.”