This is a companion to my earlier Moviepilot posting on AMERICANAH! INTERVIEW magazine is a photo journalism publication and they included photos of their proposed cast for AMERICANAH. Hey, I can do that, too!
Not to make too fine of a point, but Lupita Nyong'o is only the 2nd black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue in its history. Isn't that remarkable?
The Supporting Actress Oscar has been won by 4 black women (Hattie MacDaniel 1939, Whoopie Goldberg 1990, Octavia Spencer 2011 and Lupita Nyong'o 2013), but the Best Actress Oscar has only gone to one black woman: Halle Berry (2001). Before Halle Berry, the closest a black woman had come to winning the Oscar was Cicely Tyson in 1972, Whoopie Goldberg in 1985 and Angela Bassett in 1993. After Halle Berry, the nearest to a Best Actress Oscar win for a black woman was Viola Davis in 2011. These Oscar opportunities do not come around very often!
Simply put, AMERICANAH is Lupita Nyong'o's chance to win the Best Actress Oscar.
Lupita Nyong'o will be the present day Ifemelu, of course, but KEKE PALMER would be killer as the younger Ifemelu! In terms of visual storytelling, having Ifemelu leave Africa as KEKE and return as Lupita would have the maximum possible impact!
JADEN SMITH is younger than KEKE PALMER but also taller, and would make an excellent youthful Obinze! Like THE NOTEBOOK (2004), AMERICANAH is a love story with a long separation between lovers and would benefit from having two sets of actors playing both ends of that story! 14 years apart is a long time, folks!
Is WILL SMITH man enough for a woman to leave the riches of America for her ancestral home in Africa? Yeah, baby! As the present day Obinze, that's what love's got to do with it! Like the lovers in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), if you're going to come to the end of yourself before reuniting with your one true love, you'd better have a movie star waiting for you on the other side, because that's what movie stars are for!
As Professor Blaine, there's no need to explain why Ifemelu would have an affair with BRADLEY COOPER, right? (The fact that he has my name doesn't hurt, heh heh!) In the pit of our stomachs we're just wanting for Ifemelu to get back together with Obinze, so Blaine needs to be played by a strong leading man, otherwise it'll just come across as Safari Fever, so to speak. Just because Blaine is a rebound lover for Ifemelu doesn't mean that he can't be a most excellent rebounder, yes?
Sisters might be doing it for themselves, but Shan is the Sister Act from hell and needs to be played by an actor of PATINA MILLER's caliber! PATINA created the role of Delores (played by Whoopie Goldberg in the movies) for Sister Act on Broadway, then won the 2013 Tony Award for the Pippin revival as Leading Player, the role created in 1972 by Tony winner Ben Vereen. Anybody with that kind of range (lounge singer/nun on the run/leprechaun) is related to Lupita Nyong'o in some kind of essential way, yes?
Aunty Uju is the kind of meaty role that ANGELA BASSETT was born to play! Her turn as Tina Turner was uncannily good in What's Love Got to do With it? (1993), particularly considering that Turner was still a chart-topping artist at the time and a startling actress in her own right (Tommy, 1975; Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, 1985) . But BASSETT has not been able to show the grit and the fortitude that enforced her Tina Turner, since, and that's a loss to us all. Aunty Uju might be the shot in the arm that BASSETT needs to get back on the Oscar radar!
As Sophia in The Color Purple (1986), OPRAH WINFREY was a revelation, then WINFREY went on to become a cultural icon. But OPRAH can act and she still has the performance bug, so Aisha is the perfect role to remind us that WINFREY is always awesome!
[Americanah](movie:1479156) (2013) is the 3rd book by Chimamanda Nigozi Adichie and is widely considered to be her strongest work. At 36 years old, this African woman is poised to become the next big thing in fiction, and wouldn't it be amazing if Adichie and Lupita Nyong'o can catch the next wave, together?