Mo Abudu, owner of EbonyLife TV recently signed a deal with Netflix to produce Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horsemen, Lola Shoneyin’s Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s wives along with two other originals.
Though there is yet no public mention of the figures involved, it could run into hundreds of millions of naira, based on Netflix’s acquisition of Nigerian movies in the past. This could have an impressive impact on Nigeria’s GDP as Nollywood is said to account for up to 5% of the country’s GDP.
The TV producer recently took to her Instagram handles to tell her 728k followers about how she secured the rights to the books.
Death and the King’s Horseman
About Soyinka’s play, the journey to secure rights to the book started in 2015 when Abudu approached Wole Soyinka to make an offer on the rights to produce the drama into a film series.
According to Abudu, this play was a first choice for her when she first decided to venture into production of produce IP related projects. It took 5 years of discussions and negotiations to finally seal the deal, which now involves global streaming platform – Netflix.
For Professor Wole Soyinka, he has no doubt that the product of this partnership will be of impressive global standards and quality.
“Mo Abudu’s incursion into this arena as film and television producer has been especially stimulating. It becomes part of one’s sense of achievement if one has contributed, however minutely, to the creation of an enabling environment,” he said.
Securing rights to Lola Shoneyin’s prose
Abudu revealed in her post that her desire to produce the book started from reading the book in 2017. She was immediately struck by the plot, she said, and she knew it would make a great film or TV series.
And so, for the last three years, it has been series of meetings and negotiations, eventually culminating in the Netflix deal.
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Good morning beautiful people. It's been such a glorious weekend ❤❤❤ Once again, thank you all so much for all your beautiful messages. I am so excited about our slate of projects with Netflix, and our first Netflix Original Series will be THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI'S WIVES. I had heard so much about the book and l only got round to reading the book in 2017. As soon as i finished reading it, I knew this had to become a film or TV series, my next assignment was tracking Lola Shoneyin down and convincing her to give me the rights to the book. ?????? Oh boy was I in for a ride or what ??, my concerns ranged from would she trust me, would we get on, would we support each other as women and so much more was playing on my mind, but I kept an open mind and approached Lola with complete transparency and honesty about my intent and desire to acquire the rights to Baba Segi. One meeting led to another, this took a minute ??, but I was patient, we have over the years become friends and eventually the deal was done ??????. But I must add, that on meeting Lola we just connected, it was as if I had known her all my life. We have the most fascinating discussions and she cracks me up non stop ???. Dear Lola, thank you so much for trusting me with this precious work. ❤❤ We are super excited about partnering with Netflix on bringing this story to millions of people around the world. Below is a quote from Lola, which forms part of the press statement issued on Friday : “I was thrilled when Mo contacted me about making a show out of my novel ,The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. I’d turned down so many offers but this one felt right. It was an opportunity to see my work in the hands of a woman who pursued excellence in Africa in the same way that I did. I grew to trust her very quickly, so when she told me about the possibility of working with Netflix, I was overjoyed. Soon, people everywhere will have access to the story of Baba Segi. And that is more that I could have asked for as a writer.” #MoAbuduXLolaShoneyin #BabaSegiComingToNetflix #AfricaRiseAndShine #NigeriaToTheWorld #EbonyLifeChangingTheNarrative #netflixebonylifepartnership
About the deal, Lola Shoneyin said in her statement that she had turned down several other offers to make a show out of the prose, but Abudu struck her as the right person for the deal.
“It was an opportunity to see my work in the hands of a woman who pursued excellence in Africa in the same way that I did. I grew to trust her very quickly, so when she told me about the possibility of working with Netflix, I was overjoyed. Soon, people everywhere will have access to the story of Baba Segi. And that is more that I could have asked for as a writer,” Shoneyin said.
Casting begins for the Netflix original
Mo Abudu gave rundown of the plot of the book in a recent post, and asked for suggestions on characters for the book.
“I value your feedback and opinions. Who would you like to see play these roles from the most talented line-up of Nigerian actors you love and respect? Please do not forget, we need oscar winning performances o!!,” she wrote.
The role of Baba Segi got nominations like Jide Kosoko, Kunle Bamtefa, Akin Williams, while Rachel Oniga, Sola Sobowale, Eniola Badmus, Ngozi Nwosu were nominated into Iya Segi’s role.
Ireti Doyle, Bisola Aiyeola, Toyin Abraham was also nominated for the role of Iya Femi, the second wife.
Funlola Aofiyebi, Nse Ikpe Etim, Bimbo Akintola, Kate Henshaw were nominated to play the role of Iya Tope, while the role of quiet but sophisticated Bolanle got nominations like Omoni Oboli, Sharon Ooja, Kehinde Bankole, Kemi Lala Akindoju, and Adesua Etomi Wellington.
For Soyinka’s play, Abudu also summarized the plot and requested nominations from her followers.
Being a culturally intense plot with poetic lines, there is a need to use actors who understand the culture and can interpret it in the theatrics.
There were nominations like Femi Branch, Baba Wande and Richard Mofe Damijo as Elesin, Joke Silva and Iya Rainbow as Iyaloja, Hafiz Oyetoro, Seun Ajayi, Odunlade Adekola, Ronke Oshodi, Lateef Adedimeji Kehinde Bankole/ Bisola Aiyeola, Demola Adedoyin, Fausat Balogun among others.
Fans are sure looking forward to the screen productions, and there are hopes as well that the originals will not be star-studded but allow a few new actors in the industry.