2013 was famous for many things — Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album like a thief in the night, Don Jazzy and Wande Coal went through a musical divorce, and 2Baba married Annie Idibia — but the moment that stood out was the release of Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah after a four-year drought. 

And today, exactly ten years after Chimamanda introduced us to Ifemelu and Obinze, we’re looking at the film/TV show adaptation that didn’t happen. Who was behind it? What did Brad Pitt have to do with the whole project? And what went wrong? 

Let’s start. 

Lupita Nyong’o acquired rights to the book in 2014 and was supposed to play Ifemelu. 

Source: Variety

Anyone who’s read Americanah knows the chokehold it can have on an individual, and Lupita Nyong’o was no exception. The actress read the book when it came out in 2013 and immediately contacted Chimamanda for the rights to turn it into a movie. Not long after, 12 Years a Slave got Lupita an Oscar, and let’s just say she became Hollywood hotcake. Chimamanda gave her blessings, and Lupita set her sights on playing our beloved Ifemelu. 

David Oyelowo as Obinze? Inject It 

Source: Popsugar

Before rocking the Martin Luther King moustache in Selma, British-Nigerian actor, David Oyelowo, was announced as Obinze, Ifemelu’s love interest in Americanah. Did someone say, “Dream casting”? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves because there’s more Obinze gist on the way. 

Americanah would’ve been a Black Panther reunion 

Source: NBC

Remember when everyone and their grandmother started shouting, “Wakanda Forever”, after the first Black Panther dropped in 2018? With the movie becoming a huge part of the culture, it was announced that Danai Gurira, who played General Okoye, would join her Black Panther sister on Americanah. Rather than taking on an acting role, Danai was hired to adapt the book for film. Yes, she’s an award-winning writer too. Bet you didn’t know that. 

No longer a movie, now an HBO show 

Source: HBO 

Right after Danai Gurira was hired to adapt Americanah, the format changed from a full-length movie to a 10-episode TV show for HBO Max. HBO previously gave us Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Euphoria and Insecure, so we knew Americanah was about to slap harder than the small chops at a wedding reception. 

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Brand new Obinze and a star-studded cast 

Source: Brittle Paper

With a new format and massive studio backing the project, Americanah went all out with the casting. David Oyelowo dropped out as Obinze due to scheduling issues and Zachary Momoh from Harriet replaced him. Rounding up the TV show’s cast were Corey Hawkins from The Walking Dead as Blaine, and Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black as Aunty Uju. 

What did Brad Pitt have to do with everything? 

Source: The Today Show 

I know what you’re thinking, thee Brad Pitt? Like, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston’s former man who also happens to be an actor? Yep. Brad Pitt was also on the Americanah train as one of the show’s producers. Besides being an award-winning actor, Brad Pitt do usually produce movies. He worked on Moonlight, The Departed and If Beale Street Could Talk

Lupita and Danai visited Nigeria 

Source: Lupita’s Instagram
Source: Brittle Paper 

Since Americanah is a Nigerian story, with most of the scenes set in Nigeria, it made sense that both Lupita and Danai visited Lagos in 2018 to research and location-scout for the TV show. Lupita, AKA Lupinwa (her Igbo name from now on), came back to Lagos before the pandemic in 2020 and hung out with Chimamanda, Dakore Akande, Omoni Oboli, Flavour, Jola and FK, Onyeka Onwenu and Lala Akindoju. A moment in time. 

Miss Rona, you will crummbleeee

Source: Imgflip

Americanah had a killer cast, a badass writer, a popular TV studio and a powerful producer behind it, but nothing could’ve prepared the project for the COVID-19 pandemic. Shooting on location in Nigeria, America and the UK were suspended indefinitely. 

Lupita is booked and busy

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Yes, lockdown is over, and everyone is hugging with nary a face mask in sight. So why haven’t they come back to the Americanah project yet? Well, word on the street is Lupita is booked and very busy. The actress had to shoot Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as soon as lockdown wrapped up, and now, she’s part of the new installation of A Quiet Place. She could no longer commit to shooting, and HBO said, “No Lupita, no Americanah.” 

HBO, haba. Sis, let’s pause and think about this. 

There’s still hope 

Although HBO has cancelled Americanah, it doesn’t mean we’ll never see the project as a TV show or movie. Lupita still has the rights, so when her plate is less full, she might return to it. HBO isn’t the only TV network in the world. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on one hand and hold our anointing oil on the other. 

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