Wednesday, March 12, 2008

HBO Turns To ‘Ladies’ For New Drama Series

Jill Scott
Partners With Weinstein Co., BBC On ‘The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency’
By Kent Gibbons

HBO has bought the rights to a 13-part drama series derived from bestselling book series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and also will air the two-hour film that serves as series pilot, directed by Anthony Minghella from the script he co-wrote with Richard Curtis.

Grammy winner Jill Scott (Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?) will star in the series, whose two-hour pilot (originally to be a stand-alone movie) was filmed on location in Botswana. Curtis and Minghella are executive producers; producers are Oscar winner Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa) and Timothy Bricknell for Mirage Enterprises, along with Amy Moore for Cinechicks.

The pilot is scheduled to air on the BBC in the United Kingdom later this month.

The 13 one-hour episodes will begin filming this summer, with HBO obtaining U.S. and Canadian television and home video rights and the BBC taking U.K. television distribution. The Weinstein Company, which controls all other international territories, is planning to take the project to market at MIP in April.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, by author Alexander McCall Smith, chronicles the adventures of Precious Ramotswe (Scott), the eminently sensible and wise proprietor of the only female-owned detective agency in Botswana. Aided by her highly efficient yet rather peculiar secretary Mma Makutsi (played by Anika Noni Roseof Dreamgirls), Mma Ramotswe investigates cases, helps people solve problems in their lives, and begins a special friendship with the highly respectable owner of a local garage.

Lucian Msamati plays Mma Ramotswe’s devoted suitor JLB Matekoni. They are joined by David Oyelowo, Idris Elba (of HBO’s just-ended series The Wire), Colin Salmon and Tony Award winner John Kani.

Said Minghella in a release: “Filming The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana was an amazing adventure. The people were marvelous and the landscape, especially in the northern areas of the country, is extraordinary. Particularly fascinating to me was working and filming in an African country where old and new are currently coexisting, where traditional values have not yet been eroded by the demands and efficiencies and neuroses of the modern. It was a privilege to be working on a film which celebrates what we can learn from Africa, and not what we think we can teach it.”

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