Yvonne Orji to Adapt Yaa Gyasi’s Novel ‘Transcendent Kingdom’ Novel for Sony TV

Yvonne Orji will develop Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi's acclaimed novel "Transcendent Kingdom" through her first-look deal with Sony Pictures Television

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Yvonne Orji to Develop Yaa Gyasi's 'Transcendent Kingdom' with Sony Pictures
Yvonne Orji, “Transcendent Kingdom” written by Yaa Gyasi Ali Rasoul (Photo credit: Deadline)

Emmy-nominated actress and producer Yvonne Orji has acquired the rights to develop Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi’s acclaimed novel “Transcendent Kingdom” as a television series for Sony Pictures Television.

“Transcendent Kingdom” follows Gifty, a neuroscientist studying depression and addiction in mice hoping to unravel the scientific basis of the depression and addiction issues that have plagued her Ghanaian immigrant family.

The story moves back and forth between Gifty’s present life in California conducting her research, and her upbringing as a child in Alabama as the second-born to deeply religious parents who had emigrated from Ghana.

Gifty’s older brother became addicted to opioids after suffering a athletic injury, ultimately overdosing. Her suicidal mother was devout member of an evangelical church that Gifty also attended growing up.

Through her work in the lab studying mice, Gifty seeks scientific answers and reasons for the suffering, mental illness, and grief her family has endured. At the same time, she finds herself drawn back to her mother’s evangelical faith she had turned away from.

The novel explores topics like immigration, racism, addiction, depression, science versus religion, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating two cultures as a first-generation American. It’s ultimately a journey of Gifty trying to make sense of the traumas that have marked her life.

Orji expressed her passion for the project after years of pursuing it, in her Instagram post, she wrote: “AFRICA TO THE WORLD!!! Been chasing this story for 4 solid years and will continue to ride hard for it ’til it’s on your television screens WORLD WIDE!!”

The Nigerian-American star, best known as Molly on “Insecure,” emphasized the importance of investing in African stories for global audiences. “Please don’t sleep on African stories. They are worthy to be told. They are worthy to be INVESTED in. And there IS a GLOBAL audience for them. BANK ON US!”

Gyasi’s debut novel “Homegoing” received numerous accolades, including the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her follow-up “Transcendent Kingdom” further cemented her literary prowess, making it a prime candidate for adaptation.

Before writing novels, Gyasi short stories were published in prestigious literary journals like African American Review, Callaloo, and Granta. In 2017, she was recognized as one of the Best Young American Novelists by Granta magazine.

Orji was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and grew up in Laurel, Maryland and Lititz, Pennsylvania. She earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and a master’s degree in public health from George Washington University, though her parents had expected her to become a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, or engineer.

In 2021, Orji began development on a semi-autobiographical series for Disney+ titled First Gen, which is produced by Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo. She has also hosted the romantic comedy reality dating series My Mom, Your Dad on HBO Max and voiced a character in the animated series My Dad the Bounty Hunter.

Orji’s star continues rising through projects like “Vacation Friends 2,” and horror-comedy film The Blackening. Outside of her acting and comedy work, Orji is dedicated to philanthropy and has spent time working in post-conflict Liberia. She is also the author of the book Bamboozled by Jesus and has given a TED talk titled “The wait is sexy” about her decision to abstain from sex before marriage.

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