South African actress Pearl Thusi believes her star turn on Queen Sono, the first African original television series ordered by Netflix, will “change the game for every artist on this continent,” as she tweeted when plans for the show were announced in December 2018.
NPR.org reported that only 13 percent of the storylines on American TV mentioning Africa included an African character, and that of those, 46 percent uttered 10 words or fewer. Just 31 percent were women.
Thusi’s hope (and that of others) is that this series, which goes into production this year, will alter Africa’s place on the entertainment landscape. Sono features Thusi as a secret agent who juggles crime fighting with the ebb and flow of her personal life.
Thusi, who also starred in the ABC-TV show Quantico, will be reunited with director Kagiso Lediga and executive producer Tamsin Andersson, both South Africans. The trio previously worked together on Catching Feelings, a romantic drama.
Kelly Luegenbiehl, Netflix’s vice president for international originals for Europe and Africa, told The Hollywood Reporter that the network is “passionate about coming in and doing something that feels fresh and different.”
NPR reported that the University of Southern California, having examined some 700,000 hours of U.S. television from a single month, concluded that Africa-based storylines emerged just 25 times, and that the continent or one of its 50-plus nations were mentioned far less than their European counterparts. When they were mentioned, it was usually for crime or violence.
“The U.S. entertainment industry needs to look at the rich storytelling that is Africa-themed or originating in Africa,” Michelle van Gilder, founder of The Africa Narrative, told NPR.
Erik Barmack, Netflix’s vice president for international originals, told The Hollywood reporter that the network is “delighted” by the new series, and “super excited” to bring this distinctly South African tale to life.
“Over time our roots will get deeper in Africa and South Africa,” Barmack told THR, “and we’re moving pretty quickly to that now, and plan to invest more in local content.”