First, Marvel Studios’ Black Panther broke all sorts of records; coming in with over $1 billion worldwide at the box office when all was said and done. The film was critically and commercially lauded for its efforts at representing the Black community in non-toxic and non-damaging ways. People came out in full force to celebrate African culture, dressing in their best African garb for the premiere weekend. Not only did the film prove that the myth about Black stories not being mainstream was false, but it also ushered in a new wave of hope for what could come from Black films going forward.
In the same time period, Tomi Adeyemi broke the publishing industry with her debut novel Children of Blood and Bone. Set in a fantasy African world known as Orisha, an oppressive king rules with an iron fist against the maji, who are those with magical abilities. Fear and hatred of magic have caused the king to steal the magic away, preventing its use. That is until our main protagonist, Zelie Adebola, decides that she won’t stand anymore – she’s going to fight for her country and her people’s freedom.
Children of Blood and Bone was the #1 young adult book for several weeks. It’s sold millions of copies and has been translated into over twenty languages. Readers can’t get enough of these characters, this world, and this story. Adeyemi is happy to oblige, recently announcing her sequel: Children of Virtue and Vengeance, set to debut in spring 2019. In addition to all that, the novel was so red-hot out of the gate that it had a film deal before the manuscript was even published. Producer Wyck Godfrey of Twilight, The Maze Runner, and The Fault in Our Stars fame will partner with Karen Rosenfelt and Marty Bowen at Temple Hill Productions to bring the project to life at Fox 2000.
Since the movie is already coming, I thought it would be a great idea to float out some ideas for a potential cast. The story is so visual that I can already see it in my head, and with the success of Black Panther, I think that all these actors would be more than willing to get into some African-flavored fantasy.
Before we proceed, I want to take a moment and thank/acknowledge the amazing Elena for our stunning graphics. Feast your eyes!
When we see Michaela Coel we immediately think comedy — and rightfully so. The writer/actress has had a starring role on the UK series Chewing Gum for three seasons, and she’s gained a lot of success. But Coel is a perfectly capable dramatic actress, and Zelie does have some snark and a chip on her shoulder, akin to her Chewing Gum character. More importantly, casting Coel would be a huge step forward for the representation of dark-skinned women in mainstream cinema — specifically dark-skinned women who don’t fit conventionally beautiful standards.
Plus, imagine her with white dreadlocks, swinging a staff, the energy of the dead around her. That should be enough to sell movie tickets right there!
Letitia just stole the show as another princess: Shuri in Black Panther. But don’t worry – Amari is a drastically different character. She’s softer, more thoughtful, and more rebellious. Characterized by her dark skin and devastating beauty, Princess Amari takes a wonderful journey in the book. She goes from being meek and timid to a full-fledged revolutionary. I not only do I think that Letitia would be able to make the character her own and not seem like Shuri, but I think she fits the description for Amari – a dark-skinned, beautiful girl who seems like royalty the moment you look at her.
Plus, imagine the interactions between Letitia and Michaela — two hilarious talents. The behind-the-scenes bloopers would be legendary!
He’s playing Scar in the upcoming live-action version of The Lion King and it’s a perfect fit. So is this. Honestly, there’s just something sinister about the look in Ejiofor’s eyes sometimes and I think he would make a fantastic villain. King Saran is described as being someone who cares little for the people he rules over. He’s very volatile, short-tempered, and somewhat sadistic. But there is a cruel logic to his madness. Ejiofor could add considerable nuance to this character and avoid making him seem like yet another one-note villain. Also, his casting would keep the character light-skinned and the pervasive theme of colorism in the book is something I really want them to keep in the film.
Zelie’s swoon-worthy love interest should have someone just as handsome playing him in the adaptation – and we can all admit Trevante fits that description. I’ve been desperate for him to have some sort of role for a while now – and this is one that would be very good for him. Inan is much more convinced that King Saran is right than his sister Amari. He genuinely believes in what his father is doing, and feels that there is only one way to stop the maji – by listening to him. Inan is very smart – below the surface – but a lot of people just think of him as a handsome prince. I think Trevante would make a great companion to Michaela Coel. He’s a good actor, so he could pull off some of the twists and turns in the novel with the character (I won’t spoil anything, don’t worry).
Olamilekan — nicknamed Lekan–is a character with the ability to still conjure up some magic. Zelie visits him on her journey to learn the ways of magic and reconnect with it. Not only is Lekan a wonderful teacher, but he also instills in Zelie some sensibilities about magic that she later redirects in the final act of the story when she fights the king.
Idris Elba deserves a meaty, fully-fleshed out character and I think that with the right time spent on the training section, Lekan could fit that description wonderfully.
I love this character so, so much. She’s basically this novel’s version of Okoye, only she’s fighting for her country in the wrong way. She’s allied with the king and his son, meaning she cares about stamping out the magic. But she’s so badass and such a wonderful fighter that it’s hard not to like her, even when she says bigoted or insensitive things. I thought Ann Ogbomo was painfully underused in Wonder Woman and she doesn’t get enough screentime on FX’s Krypton. She could carry this role with no problem. I thought about fancasting one of the Black Panther ladies but none of them have that same quiet strength: the expressive eyes, yet sinister body language that Ogbomo can convey so easily. She would make a phenomenal Kaea.