Starz developing drama series about African warrior ‘Queen Nzinga’

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Yetide Badaki, who played the ancient goddess Bilquis in “American Gods,” will portray “Queen Nzinga” in an upcoming series about the African warrior leader of the same name. [Starz photo]

Starz is developing a scripted drama series called “Queen Nzinga”about the African warrior leader of the same name.

Yetide Badaki (“Army Of The Dead: Lost Vegas,” “American Gods”) will play the title royal as well as executive produce. Mo Abudu (who runs the Nigerian media company EbonyLife), Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (the “Power” Universe, “BMF”) and Steven S. DeKnight (“Spartacus,” “Daredevil”) also will be executive producers, according to a news release.

“It has been a long held dream of mine to bring the story of Nzinga to the screen. Her courage, determination and passion resonated from the moment I laid eyes on historical depictions of the legendary queen,” said Badaki in a statement. “I am thrilled by Starz’s continued commitment to much needed stories about and by historically excluded voices and the deeply talented team being built to share this epic narrative with the world.”

The series will share the remarkable true story of Nzinga, who fought against the cruel subjugation of her people by Portuguese slavers. Set in 17th-century Angola, it will chronicle the legendary tale of Nzinga’s transformation from an innocent princess into a fearless warrior queen who rages a ferocious 40-year guerrilla war against the kingdom’s formidable enemies. Nzinga would come to sacrifice everything to defend her people’s dignity, liberty and freedom. On seizing the crown, Nzinga, her country’s first female ruler, decreed, “Call me king.”

Thrust into a kingdom ravaged by slavery, ferocious tribal wars and ruthless male power struggles, Nzinga’s journey is thwart with danger at every turn. She faces a brutal family blood-bath, ferocious battles intertwined with deceptive truces, hair-raising escapes and depraved enemies. With every part of her that she sheds or is stolen from her, she moves one step closer to realizing her dream of freedom and peace for her people.

“The continent of Africa has a treasure trove of stories that are yet to be told. Queen Nzingha is a story that I have wanted to tell for a long time, so when EbonyLife Studios finally found a home for this project at Starz and Lionsgate, it was a dream come true. We are happy to be at the forefront of forging these new partnerships with such an incredible team of creatives, because it is truly about sharing our local stories with a global audience – stories that are historical, authentic and progressive,” Abudu said in a statement.

Jackson will executive produce the recently announced project through his G-Unit Film & Television, alongside Abudu, who will executive produce through EbonyLife Media.

“As G-Unit Film & Television launches more premium, international productions, I couldn’t have found better partners than Mo, Yetide and Steven to help tell the incredible story of Queen Nzinga,” Jackson said in a statement.

The series, from Lionsgate Television in development for Starz, will be overseen by Executive Vice President of Original Programming Karen Bailey on behalf of Starz. Courtney Mock is overseeing on behalf of Lionsgate.

Also an executive producer on the recently announced series, Badaki is a Nigerian-born actor, writer and producer known for “American Gods,” “Lost,” “The Magicians” and “This Is Us.” She is the award-winning narrator of sci-fi/fantasy novels “Akata Witch” and “Akata Warrior” by Nnedi Okorafor. Badaki also stars as Queen Meeru in Zack Snyder’s “Army Of The Dead: Lost Vegas” and as Vera in the Disney feature film “Rise,” due for release in 2022.


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