The last several years have seen an influx of African actors breaking ground in American culture: Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Djimon Hounsou, to name a few. For South African model turned actress Pearl Thusi, who had a stint on the ABC drama Quantico, returning to the continent served a greater purpose. “I came back from the States because I had a child and three dogs—and I am passionate about being here and investing in African entertainment,” she explains from Johannesburg, where she’s been in between filming her new project, Queen Sono.
Set to launch as Netflix’s first original African series, Queen Sono tells the story of an unconventional spy with a mysterious past who works for an undercover South African agency devoted to protecting the people of Africa—and who just might be the superhero of our dreams. This action-packed thriller—and yes, there is a lot of glorious ass-kicking—was created and produced with an entirely South African cast and an all–African crew.
For Thusi, who knows firsthand that representation matters, the six-part series is also an opportunity to show the world aspects of the Africa she knows. In any given episode, scenes move quickly from Johannesburg to major cities like Nairobi, in Kenya, and Zanzibar, in Tanzania—with each city displaying its own personality in a thrilling pan-African narrative.
Because we have control over the narrative, we can show that poverty isn’t the only thing happening in Africa.”
“People like to fantasize [about] African poverty,” Thusi says. “They think of African tragedy, and it’s romanticized unbelievably. But because we have control over the narrative, we can show this is not the only thing that’s happening in Africa. This is what’s happening in the middle class; this is what’s happening in our hoods, in our streets, in our townships. This is who we are. We don’t all look the same. As South Africans, we get to put it out there with this series. And the rest of the world gets to see it.”
The stunning actress, who cut her teeth in pageants back in Durban before launching a global modeling career, also understands that the backing of a streaming giant like Netflix will put the show, which premieres February 28, in the homes of people in more than 190 countries. Many of them will be introduced to an Africa they might not recognize.
What’s more, they’ll be meeting a complex African woman who has emotional breadth and soulful depth by day and takes down the bad guys by night. “This is what an African woman can be,” Thusi says. “This is what she can look like. This is what she can represent. You can either be excited for me or fear me, because I am coming for everything.”