The last we heard of any progress for the film adaptation for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel, Americanah was back in 2014 when Variety announced that David Oyelowo was pegged to co-star alongside Lupita Nyong’o. The film, which is set to be produced by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B Entertainment, is still looking to attach a writer and director to the project.
Uche Aguh, an emerging Nigerian-American director, screenwriter and actor, could be looking to fill in those roles. In December, the triple threat released a concept trailer via his own production company, 55Media, piecing four scenes that tell the complicated love story of Ifemelu and Obinze: the night they fell in love, their time apart abroad, their rekindling, and the definitive decision to move forward with their relationship.
“My inspiration for creating this concept was primarily the source,” Aguh told ESSENCE. “The novel Chimamanda has written is an amazing novel with fully realized, complex and un-perfect characters, which I think is quite unique and rare - especially with African characters. It’s not often we see these types of stories on film with three-dimensional
African leads, specifically three dimensional African women. I was really drawn to the source material, and I had a deeply visceral connection to the world depicted in the novel, as an immigrant myself,” said Aguh.
Aguh casted actress Isio Esiekpe - who bares a striking resemblance to Netflix Original Chewing Gum’s Michaela Coel - to play Ifemelu. In it, she captures Ifemelu as most of us imagined, stylish and confident, yet still naive and curious while exploring the complexities of maneuvering through America’s perceived greener pastures.
Regarding the creative process of casting the characters for his interpretation of Americanah, Aguh disclosed, “Casting can be quite difficult when adapting characters from a novel to screen - the audience invests so much into absorbing the literature, they assume ownership of the characters and minute details about their life,” explains Aguh. “Luckily, there was so much already on the page. These characters were written to the most microscopic cell of their being; it was really all on the page.”
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In casting Esiekpe for Ifemelu, Aguh also shares, “I looked for Nigerian or African actors who had understood what it meant to be an immigrant. Particularly for Ifemelu, I wanted to find an actress who could humanize her, without making any excuses or judgments about her. There is a hardness to Ifemelu, but also a really discrete vulnerability, which I think is quite beautiful," he said.
"I wanted to make sure I serviced the book, and Chimamanda’s vision by paying close attention to the details about her physicality. I thought that was extremely important. Isio, the actress who brilliantly portrays this role had an affectation to Michaela Cole, whom I thought was physically what Ifemelu would most look like from what I gathered about her on the pages of the book.”
The result of Aguh’s imagination is a beautifully executed portrayal of what Americanah could look like on the big screen.
For more information on the production of the trailer or to watch the scenes in their entirety visit 55Media.