Tessa Thompson is making big moves behind the scenes. The Sylvie’s Love actress has launched a new production company. Which already has a first-look deal with HBO and HBO Max. And if that’s not fast-moving enough, Thompson already has two projects underway under this first-look deal.
Deadline reports that Tessa Thompson set to executive produce two big book adaptations. Who Fears Death and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, under an HBO and HBO Max first-look deal with her new production company, Viva Maude. The Sylvie’s Love and Westworld star launched Viva Maude with a two-year deal with the WarnerMedia-owned cable network and streaming service right out of the gate. So Thompson said of the deal in a statement to Deadline:
“I’m beyond thrilled to officially launch my production company, Viva Maude, which has been a real passion project and labour of love over the last few years. I’m elated to begin this partnership and to bring entertaining and impactful television projects to my friends and collaborators at HBO and HBO Max. Together we are committed to developing interesting and inclusive stories with inventive creators and to discover new voices and visionaries.”
Who Fears Death is an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor‘s book of the same name. It’s a coming-of-age story that follows an outcast girl named Onyesowu living in post-apocalyptic North Africa who “embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death,” per the Amazon synopsis for the novel.
The project has actually been in the works at HBO since 2017, with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin on board as one of the executive producers. Aïda Mashaka Croal (Jessica Jones and Luke Cage), has recently boarded the project as showrunner, writer, and executive producer. So they join Angela Mancuso and Michael Lombardo as executive producers, with Okorafor as co-executive producer.
Meanwhile, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is based on a short story collection. Written by Deesha Philyaw that was published in September. And was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The nine stories in the book “explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good”. Thompson set to executive produce the project with author Philyaw, who is also writing the adaptation.
So Thompson has started producing projects recently. Like Nia DaCosta’s 2018 debut film Little Woods and the 2020 fiction podcast The Left Right Game. Both of which Thompson starred in. But this is the first time the actress, who has frequently been vocal about representation on and behind the screen, has stepped back to take solely a producing role, boosting the careers of other creatives of color. This is an exciting new chapter in Thompson’s career. So it’ll be intriguing to see what she achieves with these big moves.