SHOWTIME announced today that Charles Babalola (The Outlaws) will star as Shaka in the highly anticipated new series KING SHAKA, an epic drama centered around one man’s personal journey from stigmatized childhood to legendary king. Babalola will join fellow series regulars Aïssa Maïga (The Fear Index) as Nandi, Shaka’s devoted mother who will sacrifice everything to fulfill her son’s destiny; and Thando DIomo (The Woman King) as Pampatha, a herder who finds her fate forever entwined with Shaka’s.
Thapelo Mokoena (Bulletproof) will guest star as Gendeyana, a Qwabe leader who grows close to Shaka and Nandi, along with Warren Masemola (Queen Sono) as Magazwa, who provides safe haven to Shaka and Nandi but at a cost. The CBS Studios production, produced with Propagate and Fuqua Films, kicks off next month in the historic KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) South Africa province, the birthplace of King Shaka. The series will be fully shot in South Africa and will debut on SHOWTIME in 2023.
“This outstanding international cast is, quite literally, a dream team,” says KING SHAKA creators and executive producers Olu Odebunmi and Tolu Awosika. “The powerful story of King Shaka and the Zulu Nation speaks to the very heart of everything we identify with as Africans. It’s a blessing and honor to share the greatness of the Zulu people’s history with a full and nuanced approach that serves as a microcosm for African history across the continent. We couldn’t be more excited to reintroduce this narrative from the perspective of its own people and share it with the world.”
As part of the production investment in South Africa and the KZN province, more than 300 locals have been hired for jobs across all facets of the production, including cast, crew, performers and craftspeople. In addition, the production is working in concert with leading South African production services company Film Afrika to help facilitate filming in the region. They are also working closely with the KZN Film Commission and with career-building training programs such as SA Film Academy (SAFA) and the Academy of Creative Excellence to provide production internships and other opportunities.
Rooted in actual events, KING SHAKA tells the story of the Zulu Empire founder Shaka (Babalola) and his unlikely rise to power, uniting multiple tribes across vast stretches of southern Africa in the early 19thcentury to transform his power into legend, on par with history’s most seminal figures. The outcast son of a Zulu Chief, Shaka is a visionary who is prophesized to become a king like none before him.
In ferocious battles that test the body and soul, in alliances that test the bonds of love and friendship, a complex sociological system plays out that renders the human cost front and center, for the victors as well as the vanquished, all in an effort to carve out a semblance of identity, fulfillment and ultimately, survival.
Babalola is known for his starring role in the crime thriller series The Outlaws, along with other notable roles in Black Mirror: Hated in the Nation, Bancroft and Thirteen. Film credits include Gretel & Hansel, Mary Magdalene, The Legend of Tarzan and the upcoming feature Borderlands. He recently starred in the critically acclaimed Network at The National Theatre of London.
Actor/director/producer Maïga earned a César nomination for her work in the film Bamako, becoming the first Black actress of African descent to earn the distinction. Her notable credits include The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, He Even Has Your Eyes, The African Doctor, Taken Down and The Fear Index. She will be seen in the upcoming films Quand tu seras grand (When You Grow Up) and Le marchand de sable (The Sandman).
Dlomo is making her feature film debut in The Woman King, starring Viola Davis. She has appeared in more than 30 South African theater productions and been featured in documentaries, including Oprah’s Daughters and O Girls. She is a member of the inaugural graduating class of Oprah Winfrey’s South African Leadership Academy.
Actor, producer and filmmaker Mokoena starred as Elias Motsoaledi in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and as Cedric Fatani in Wild at Heart. His credits include Trackers, Between Friends: Ithala,Nothing for Mahala, Mrs. Right Guy and Drum.
Masemola is a multiple award nominee and a three-time South African Film and Television Award winner. His credits include The Republic, Tjovitjo, The River, Eye in the Sky, The Widow and Vaya.
KING SHAKA is created and executive produced by Olu Odebunmi and Tolu Awosika, and executive produced by Antoine Fuqua, Bridget Carpenter, Propagate’s Ben Silverman, Howard T. Owens and Rodney Ferrell. Seith Mann, who is directing the pilot, and Spencer Medof are also executive producers. Scott Greenberg is a producer, and Michael Callas is producing for Fuqua Films.
Showtime Networks Inc. (SNI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Paramount, owns and operates the premium service SHOWTIME®, which features critically acclaimed original series, provocative documentaries, box-office hit films, comedy and music specials and hard-hitting sports. SHOWTIME is available as a stand-alone streaming service across all major streaming devices and Showtime.com, as well as via cable, DBS, telco and streaming video providers.
SNI also operates the premium services THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ and FLIX®, as well as on demand versions of all three brands. SNI markets and distributes sports and entertainment events for exhibition to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis through SHOWTIME PPV®. For more information, go to www.SHO.com [sho.com].
FOUNDER & CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER | Founder and COO of Seat42F, a leading source of entertainment news, information, television and movie resources.