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EbonyLife, 50 Cent, Starz team up for African period drama Queen Nzinga

Mo Abudu at Content London

British-Nigerian entrepreneur Mo Abudu’s Lagos-based EbonyLife Studios has struck a partnership deal with Lionsgate-owned US network Starz for an African period drama.

Queen Nzinga will be developed under the partnership. Set in 17th century Angola, it tells the story of an innocent princess who transforms into a fearless warrior queen and wages war against the kingdom’s enemies in the form of Portuguese slavers.

The drama will be produced by Lionsgate Television and executive produced by Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson through his G-Unit Film & Television alongside Abudu, who will executive produce through EbonyLife Media. It will also be overseen by executive VP of original programming Karen Bailey on behalf of Starz.

The series will star Nigerian-American actor Yetide Badaki (American Gods) as Queen Nzinga. Steven S DeKnight (Spartacus) is the creator and head writer. The search for a showrunner is currently underway.

Abudu said: “Dear Karen Bailey, thank you so much for uniting us all on this project. The continent of Africa has a treasure trove of stories that are yet to be told. Queen Nzinga is a story that I have wanted to tell for a long time.

“This project is also special for us as it comes in the wake of us opening EbonyLife USA LLC in Los Angeles. I said it before and I am saying it again, as Africans, we should see ourselves as world citizens, and our storytelling, locations and networks should extend to every corner of the globe.”

Jackson added: “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.”

The Starz partnership is the latest in EbonyLife’s recent moves to team up with US and UK studios to tell African stories to a global audience.

On the eve of her appearance at C21’s Content London earlier this month, Abudu revealed a deal with BBC Studios for an action-adventure series called Reclaim, setting up a UK office at the same time.

In September, EbonyLife confirmed an agreement with Sony Pictures Television to set up a new African writers’ initiative called Àló, meaning ‘once upon a time’ in the Yoruba language.

Earlier this year, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Studios also partnered with EbonyLife to work on TV and film projects connected to the African continent, while Abudu has also signed a deal with Netflix that will see her develop original titles for the streaming giant.

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