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SYFY WIRE Tessa Thompson

WIRE Buzz: Tessa Thompson backing Who Fears Death; The Sparrow adaptation flies to FX; more

By Vanessa Armstrong
Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson has a new production company, and one of her first investments is in Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, a sci-fi drama series based on Okorafor’s book that had already been picked up by HBO and is being produced by George R. R. Martin.

Deadline reports that Thompson’s new company, Viva Maude, has established a first-look deal with HBO and HBO Max. Part of this partnership entails her financial support for Who Fears Death as well as HBO's Secret Lives of Church Ladies, an adaptation of a series of short stories by Deesha Philyaw.

“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,” Thompson said in a statement. “Together we are committed to developing interesting and inclusive stories with inventive creators and to discover new voices and visionaries.”

Who Fears Death has been at HBO since 2017. The series will follow the story of Onyesowu, a young woman in post-apocalyptic North Africa who goes on a journey of self-discovery, including taking full ownership of the supernatural powers she wields.

No news on a development timeline for the series.

Speaking of book adaptations, FX has just announced it will be adapting Mary Doria Russell’s sci-fi book The Sparrow into a television series. According to The Wrap, Scott Frank — the writer and co-creator of The Queen’s Gambit — will write all the episodes of the show. Johan Renck (Chernobyl, The Walking Dead) is also on board to direct.

This isn't the first time that The Sparrow has been optioned for screen adaptation, or even the second. As of 2013, the book had been optioned at least three times, with a 2013 AMC option apparently going nowhere. The FX production seems to have more steam than the other attempts, however, given that Frank and Renck are already attached. 

What will this version of The Sparrow look like? The official logline of the show is below, and based on the description, it appears to hew closely to Mary Doria Russell’s novel:

“The Sparrow” follows a band of Jesuit priests and scientists, led by linguist Father Emilio Sandoz, who makes first contact with extraterrestrial life. The Vatican backs a secret trip to the distant planet with the purpose of proving the existence of God throughout the universe. Things don’t quite go as planned and the trip ends in disaster. Father Sandoz, the only survivor, returns to Earth broken both physically and mentally where the Vatican holds an inquiry into the now scandalous misadventure. 

Frank is currently working on the scripts, so there’s understandably no news yet on when the show will go into production and ultimately make its way to the small screen.

After 40+ years, the much-loved Disneyland annual pass program is coming to an end because of the impact COVID has had on the parks.

“In the next several days, we will begin the process of issuing appropriate refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports and sunsetting the current Annual Passport program due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations and expected restrictions around the reopening of our theme parks,” Ken Potrock, President of Disneyland Resort, shared in a statement to annual passholders.

The annual pass program allowed Disneyland fans to pay a monthly fee and be able to access the parks on certain days each month, with higher-paying tiers able to visit on more days and also receive higher discounts on food, beverages, and merchandise.

There is a silver lining for passholders, however — Potrock's statement goes on to promise that something down the line will replace the old system, and that the new offering “will utilize consumer insights to deliver choice, flexibility and value for our biggest fans.”

What those details will be, however, remain to be seen. In the meantime, former passholders will still receive their discounts on food, drink, and merchandise until the replacement system is rolled out.