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Tessa Thompson Joins Adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death” As Executive Producer

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BY February 10, 2021

Actress Tessa Thompson is moving into the realm of production with a brand new company – Viva Maude. The first project on her books is the upcoming adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor novel Who Fears Death. Thompson has signed on as an executive producer for the HBO series. She joins fellow executive producer George R.R. Martin who helped bring the project to HBO initially. Now there is a duo that I never thought I would see team up. But we are living in strange times.

Tessa Thompson Joins The Who Fears Death Adaptation

Author Nnedi Okorafor is also an executive producer on the series. She will oversee the adaptation of the novel that brought her into the cultural consciousness. Who Fears Death was Okorafor first novel, published in 2011. And it has won a number of prestigious genre awards, including 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. The adaptation of Who Fears Death has been in progress since 2017, when Okorafor first announced that the project was in development.

This is far from the only television project that Okorafor is involved in. She is also still onboard to write an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed novels for Amazon Prime. And another novel of Okorafor – Binti – is currently undergoing the adaptation process over at Hulu. It is clear that Okorafor is a force to reckoned with, bringing her magical touch to shows across a variety of streaming platforms.

Black Women Are The Heart Of This Series

Who Fears Death will be led by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage writer Aïda Mashaka Croal, who will serve as showrunner for the series. This comes on the heels of Croal departing the adaptation for Y: The Last Man in 2019. It looks like she has found a new project that is more up her alley.

The series will follow the path of Okorafor novel that helped launch the wave of African-Futurism in contemporary fantasy. Okorafor writes fantasy novels for a variety of ages. But there is no doubt that Who Fears Death grapples with some of her heavier topics and themes of genocide, racism, rape, and genital mutilation. It is certainly not a story for the faint of heart. We can only hope that GRRM’s involvement will not lead to gratuitous violence (he is kind of known for it).

Nnedi Okorafor Author Nnedi Okorafor | Image via Wikimedia Commons

A synopsis from Penguin Random House tells us the following about Who Fears Death.

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny – to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture – and eventually death itself.

The Women In Charge of Who Fears Death All Have Ties To The MCU

The inclusion of Tessa Thompson as executive producer on Who Fears Death, alongside two black woman writers in Okorafor and Aïda Mashaka Croal means that this series promises to be a powerhouse of black feminism in fantasy. We don’t know yet if Thompson will also take on an acting role in the HBO series, but she would certainly make a powerful protagonist in Onyesonwu.

In a statement to Deadline, Thompson said: “I am beyond thrilled to officially launch my production company, Viva Maude, which has been a real passion project and labour of love over the last few years. I’m elated to begin this partnership and to bring entertaining and impactful television projects to my friends and collaborators at HBO and HBO Max.  Together we are committed to developing interesting and inclusive stories with inventive creators and to discover new voices and visionaries.”

Tessa Thompson Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

All three women also have a connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thompson of course portrayed Valkyrie in the Thor movies and the greater MCU. Croal worked on the Marvel shows on Netflix as both writer and producer. And Okorafor has penned several graphic novels in the Black Panther pantheon. This includes a series dedicated to the character of Shuri. Maybe after these powerful women finish working on the adaptation of Who Fears Death they will team up again for a brand new movie or show in the MCU. We can certainly dream!

For more genre news and reviews, be sure to follow Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today.

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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

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