The book of 2020 is coming to the screen with major talent attached. Deadline reports that Aziza Barnes and Jeremy O. Harris will write and executive produce the HBO adaptation of Brit Bennett’s bestselling novel The Vanishing Half. Issa Rae and her Hoorae production company will join Bennett as executive producer, as will Stephanie Allain at Homegrown Pictures.
In June 2020, Deadline reported The Vanishing Half would be adapted into an HBO limited series after the premium cable channel won a “wild auction” with 17 bidders vying for rights to the story. Fervor for the title is well-deserved—it has sat atop the New York Times bestseller list for 37 weeks and counting.
Ahead, everything we know about the highly-anticipated TV series.
The Vanishing Half explores themes of race, family, and identity.
The source material for HBO’s new limited series is Bennett’s epic 2020 novel. It tells the story of Desiree and Stella Vignes, identical twin sisters who grew up in the Jim Crow South before escaping at 16 and diverging on separate life paths. A further description of the novel, per Penguin Random House, reads:
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her Black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?”
Bennett, who is also the author of bestselling novel The Mothers, spoke to Vulture about her inspiration for The Vanishing Half. “I wanted to write a book about a town that exists in this weird liminal racial space between the worlds of black and white, in a time and a place in which binaries are very important,” she told the outlet. “In the Jim Crow society, it’s all about the binaries. So what does it mean to be outside of that binary? And then, what does it mean to leave that town? I was interested in the idea that this liminal third space was mobile, that it was something the characters carried with them even when they left the town and went off to other places.”
The creative team is in place but no casting has been announced.
On Feb. 23, Deadline announced poet and playwright Barnes and playwright Harris would be taking on writing and executive producer duties, with Rae and Allain joining Bennett as executive producers. Montrel McKay and Sara Rastogi will also executive produce with Hoorae, and Gabrielle Ebron will join from Homegrown Pictures.
“Reading The Vanishing Half was and is an exacting call to my family’s history—one of passing for white, legends so tall as to be myths, and wounds that last several generations,” Barnes said in a statement. “Beyond feeling compelled to adapt this world that I knew viscerally, to then be able to craft its coming to life with a dear friend, chosen family, is a gift beyond measure. Working with Jeremy is a delight and dedication to making art in the medium of television that grips and moves me, moves us both. I’m hype.”
Harris added, “One of the few highlights of 2020 was the evening I spent on my birthday curled on my couch screaming at Stella Vignes, ‘HOW COULD YOU’ so loudly my neighbor thought something was wrong. To know that I get the privilege to collaborate with Brit and one of my favorite playwrights Aziza in translating that moment to millions around the world is an honor. In many ways knowing that my ‘twin’ in this journey gets to be a playwright with whom I shared a debut season and a debut director makes this all the more special because the secret language of siblings seems to already pass between us throughout this process.”
There’s no release date yet.
There’s no word yet on an official release date, but considering HBO’s reportedly seven-figure bid for the book, it’s safe to say the series will be hitting the screen soon enough.
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