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Tessa Thompson Is Developing Raven Leilani’s ‘Luster’ Into an HBO


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Luster, Raven Leilani’s best-selling, award-winning debut novel, is getting the TV treatment. Tessa Thompson’s production company Viva Maude and the studio Gaumont (Narcos Mexico, Lupin) are teaming up to adapt the work for HBO, Deadline reports. The news comes just over a year after the book’s 2020 release.

Praised for its sharp humor and gutting honesty, Luster centers on Edie, a Black artist living in Brooklyn and scrambling through her twenties—the awkward sexual escapades, the workplace woes of her admin job, her run-down apartment, all of it. She begins an affair with Eric, a white man in his forties in a quasi-open marriage; but their relationship becomes even more complicated when Edie movies in with him and his wife, Rebecca, in a New Jersey suburb and forms an unexpected bond with their adopted Black daughter, Akila.

Previously speaking to ELLE.com, Leilani explained how she crafted Edie with relatable struggles, messes, and flaws—using a trope often reserved for white female characters in media.

“In general, when we’re talking about women, ‘unlikeable’ is a way of saying that we get to be privy to the darkness of her interior mind. She gets to be complex, she gets to be angry, and it has different baggage when the woman is Black. I wanted to speak to that rage—that was the origin of Edie, rage. It’s funny that it kind of became humor. What we call unlikeability in white women, I think Black women feel, but have to suppress in order to survive. It felt like I had to be very careful, but at the same time I tried not to be careful. I tried to be free.”

While casting details for HBO’s Luster are still unknown, the behind-the-scenes team is already coming together. Thompson and Kishori Rajan (Viva Maude’s Vice President of Development and Production and executive producer of HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness) are executive producing. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury and Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award-winning theater director Lileana Blain-Cruz are writing the script. The pair previously worked together on the Obie-winning play Marys Seacole.

In a statement to Deadline, Thompson praised Leilani as “a seminal voice for her generation.” She added: “In her work, which defies categorization, there is an astonishingly singular quality that speaks to spirit of the types of narratives Viva Maude aims to showcase—bold, beautifully crafted, unapologetically human, imaginative and unconventional—it is thrilling to be teamed with Gaumont and the stunning talents of Jackie Sibblies Drury and Lileana Blain-Cruz to develop this story at HBO, the perfect home.”

Erica Gonzales Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more.

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