'A truly African female hero' - Here's what went into creating 'Queen Sono'

Pearl Thusi in 'Queen Sono.' (Photo: Netflix)
Pearl Thusi in 'Queen Sono.' (Photo: Netflix)

WARNING: This article contains strong language

It was in 2018 that we first heard about Queen Sono – Netflix's first African original series. 

Shot in 37 different locations, with a slew of local stars, speaking a variety of languages, the show is finally premiering to a worldwide audience on 28 February via the popular streaming service. 

So, who is Queen Sono? 

Played by Pearl Thusi, Queen is a spy based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The series follows her mission to rid the city of criminals, while still trying to keep her personal life intact. 

Producer and Director Kagiso Lediga says after working with Pearl Thusi on Catching Feelings, he was in search of his next big project. That's when he saw a video of Pearl on set training for Scorpion King: Book of Souls and the idea for Queen Sono was hatched. 

"She wanted to do this Tomb Raider type of stuff, but I'm very much into the spy genre, and I thought [about] a female spy – Jason Bourne, James Bond-ish, truly African female hero. So I started riffing on that," he explains during a roundtable interview on Tuesday. 

The meeting with Netflix was set up by a friend of Kagiso's – something that he says happened entirely by chance. The partnership will now see Queen Sono stream in 190 countries globally. 

Getting a first look at the series, I was blown away by the stunts and special effects. 

Kagiso says, for him, it was all about ensuring those scenes were believable. 

"The one thing I keep reiterating is that we wanted, especially Queen's character, to take a bunch of punches; to actually look like she feels pain. Cause we didn't want it to be this superhero kind of character. We wanted her to show that she really is good at what she does; she really has to overcome all these [things]. And she's usually fighting men, so the idea that men can inflict pain on women, but this woman is not going to just fucking die or just roll over, she's going to come at you really hard and kill you if you're not lucky."

With this in mind, Pearl Thusi undertook what she described as a "very challenging, but rewarding role". 

"Just the preparation of it all was very intense – physically and psychologically," she tells us during the interview sessions. 

Paired up with Pearl during the roundtable discussion was actress Kate Liquorish who takes on the role of antagonist, Ekaterina. 

The ladies represent the two most powerful characters on the show – one a hero, and the other, the most badass villain I have come across in a while. 

Transforming into those characters was no walk in the park. "It took a lot of training – hours and hours with an amazing stunt team headed up by Grant Powell in Cape Town. We had five days, seven hours a day, crying in each other's arms," Kate says. 

She laughs along with Pearl as they recall a particularly hectic training session which ended with Pearl rushing to the beach to submerge herself in the ocean's cold water to bring relief to her worn-out muscles. 

"When I got out [of training], because my body was so messed up, I couldn't move my wrists, because we had been boxing and doing all this work with the knives. If I moved my wrists, I felt like I would have lost my wrists," Pearl explains. 

Women are at the forefront of this series. Whether on the side of good or evil, they head up the production in a refreshing way. Pearl says the show is all about "the idea of women understanding how powerful they are." In fact, she believes "empowerment" is the theme that is present throughout the entire series.

"[It's about] empowering this industry, [and] empowering artists. This, for me, is a nice, beautiful, big middle finger to the broadcasting companies, you know who they are, and the production companies, who have disrespected us and short-changed us for so long. I'm kind of empowering other actors to understand this is your value, this is your worth, if only we could be unified."

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