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Netflix’s debut original African series is about a cross-continental female spy

Netflix recognizes that African audiences watch the same shows as anyone else.
Netflix recognizes that African audiences watch the same shows as anyone else.
Image: Reuters/Mike Blake
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Next year, a highly trained top spy will start using her skills and stealth to better the lives of African citizens. Well, on Netflix at least, as the streaming service makes good on its promise to cater to African audiences.

Netflix confirmed on Monday (Dec. 10) that its first original African series, titled Queen Sono, will debut next year. The show will center on a complex, diverse female character, in line with how Netflix has sought to shake up leading man roles with shows like Jessica James and Luke Cage.

The show also promises to deliver some classic spy drama tropes that traditionally play so well across small and big screens. With South African actress Pearl Thusi in the lead role, Queen Sono will have to juggle dangerous missions with personal drama. Her missions will take her across the continent, with her home base a spy agency in South Africa.

Thusi is best known to international audiences for her role alongside Priyanka Chopra in the action drama Quantico. She isn’t new to streaming audiences either, after starring in the Netflix original Catching Feelings, a rom-com about 30-something Joburgers. Diprente, the same production company that sold Catching Feelings to Netflix, will produce the the series.

“We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world,” says Kagiso Lediga, the show’s creator and director. Lediga, who starred in Catching Feelings, has directed and produced several films that have taken the South African story beyond apartheid, from a buddy cop comedy to a coming-of-age adventure set in Pretoria’s historic Atteridgeville township.

“The opportunities that Netflix provides for a project like this are manyfold,” exectuive producer Tamsin Andersson says. “Not least of which their ability to take the content to a global audience, and their deeply authentic way of working with and developing content and story with producers.”

Andersson says South African television has been limited by the “era of ‘mandate TV’”—referring to broadcasters leading on content based on audience demographics. While this model came about to address social injustices and a lack of representation in the country, it’s often led to a situation of broadcasters and producers being overly prescriptive in terms of content choices, explains Andersson. Netflix brings with it a content-first strategy, which acknowledges how much the viewing tastes of Africans mirror those of global audiences.

“This is the huge advantage that Netflix has—the ability to link viewers with the type of content that they enjoy,” Andersson says. It’s “an exciting model to be a part of as we step into the adventure of creating this series with them,” she adds.