Hit drama “Ugly Betty” is coming to South Africa, and will feature the show’s first Black lead.
Pre-production begins next month, and principal photography will start in January, on “uBettina Wethu,” the South African remake of “Yo soy Betty, la fea,” the megahit Colombian telenovela that inspired the America Ferrera-fronted ABC series “Ugly Betty.”
Borrowing on the tender, comic tone of the hit Colombian telenovela, which has been successfully adapted in 19 territories worldwide, “uBettina Wethu” will mark the first remake featuring a ‘Betty’ who is Black. The first season of the show is a co-production with South African public broadcaster SABC and will debut in April 2021.
Produced by Known Associates Entertainment (KAE) and Moonlighting Films, the series is the first project of a slate of feature film and television projects to emerge from a newly launched venture between the two companies.
“Acquiring the rights and putting the finance together for ‘uBettina Wethu’ has taken four years,” said producer Tshepiso Sello, “but thankfully we are there now.”
“uBettina Wethu” (Our Betty) is the story of a naïve rural girl who gets a job working for one of Johannesburg’s most eligible bachelors. Despite the challenges, she succeeds at winning his heart and excelling in business beyond her wildest dreams.
“It’s a wonderful, universal story that has been told in more territories worldwide than any other franchise and we are so happy to be bringing it to life in South Africa,” said Sello.
The new partnership brings together the boutique production company Known Associates, based in Johannesburg, and the Cape Town-based Moonlighting, an industry-leading production services company that has serviced more than 100 series and feature films, including “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Homeland” and “The Crown.”
“KAE has a great depth of experience in development and financing, which will allow us to focus on our core competency, physical production,” said Moonlighting managing director Genevieve Hofmeyr. “The partnership will allow two entrepreneurial companies to work together at a time when the global market for entertainment content is hungry for new perspectives, and we are well placed to deliver on this opportunity.”
Other projects on the companies’ joint slate include the Gaumont co-production “418,” a limited series set in Europe and South Africa in the 1980s, about two South African patriots on opposite sides of the Cold War; “’76,” a limited series co-production with producer Rebecca Rivo (“Escape Room,” “Zombieland: Double Tap”), about four students who join a peaceful protest in apartheid-era South Africa, only to see their lives torn apart when the government responds with violence; and “Desert Run,” an action-drama limited series about four young gamers whose lives are turned upside-down when they’re recruited as drone pilots by the U.S. military.
“Any growth strategy has to involve an alignment with the right kind of partners, and we couldn’t be more delighted to be working alongside Moonlighting, a company that has played a key role in putting South Africa on the international co-production map and who leads the field in servicing Hollywood productions,” said Joel Phiri, executive producer on all KAE productions.
“It marks a new chapter for KAE as we are releasing our new joint slate together, one that celebrates compelling storytelling, identity, diversity and youth culture across a range of genres. We’re so honored to launch this collaboration, and I truly believe we can co-develop some great film and TV projects together.”