Sarah Hassan

Actress, producer and former TV host Sarah Hassan.

| File | Nation Media Group

Sarah Hassan, Alfred Munyua to star in new crime thriller

Streaming service Showmax has expanded its investment in Africa with its first original Kenyan series and second co-production with global broadcaster CANAL+.

Showmax and CANAL+ have begun production on Crime & Justice, a gritty police procedural and legal show set in Nairobi that features a heavy-weight cast, with Sarah Hassan and Alfred Munyua starring as Makena and Silas.

The two are the detectives at the heart of the topical show that follows one ripped-from-the-headlines case per episode, all the way through to the courtroom verdict.

Hassan is known for her roles in Tahidi High, Plan B and How to Find a Husband, while Alfred Mutua is popular for his roles in Poacher, The First Grader as well as Sense 8.

Sarah Hassan and Alfred Munyua.

Sarah Hassan and Alfred Munyua. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“When I first read the script, I loved the delivery and realness of Silas as a character. It’s not exaggerated and he’s no Rambo hero; he just tackles his cases the normal way. I found a very real edge with this script, and I hope I’ll do justice to the role,” says Munyua.

Hassan says she is looking forward to playing a detective for the first time in her career.

Different character

“This is a very different character; I’ve never played anything like Makena before. It’s very exciting to get a character that makes me grow as an actress.”

The actor and actress are joined by Maqbul Mohammed from Varshita and Auntie Boss as DCI Boss Kebo, Paul Ogola from Sense 8 and Kati Kati as Prosecutor Sokoro, and Brian Ogola from Lusala and Disconnect as Caleb, the resident pathologist.

They are also joined by stage and screen legend John Sibi-Okumu from The Constant Gardener and The First Grader, Muhugu Theuri from Pillow Talk and Pieces of Us, Brian Abajah from Sincerely Daisy, Martin Githinji from Sue na Jonnie and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, as well as Justin Mirichii from Rafiki and Watu Wote in guest roles.

Crime & Justice is directed and produced by Adam Neutzsky-Wulff, whose slate of films and series include All The Little Things We Kill, starring Elizabeth Marvel from House of Cards and Homeland, and You Are Here, starring Teen Choice nominee Jason Dohring from Veronica Mars, iZombie and The Originals, Peter Vack from Love Life and The Bold Type, Lea Thompson from Switched at Birth and Back to the Future and MTV Movie Award winner William Baldwin from Dirty Sexy Money, Gossip Girl and Parenthood.

“I work with feature films mostly, but I’ve always loved crime and procedural shows with a crime scene, an investigation and a courtroom drama at the end,” he says. “A year ago, I had just finished directing a feature film. I pitched Crime & Justice to Showmax who coincidentally were looking for a crime show. It seemed like it was meant to be.”

Adam then started researching on real Kenyan stories and themes. Most episodes are built on real stories from the headlines, with some of them inspired by important topics like domestic violence and corruption.

“I’ve loved and always been fascinated by Kenya ever since I read Out Of Africa by Karen Blixen and I knew I wanted my next project to be here,” he says. “I was inspired by the fact that I wanted to write and showcase real Kenyan stories without sugar-coating them.”

Growing up in a socially-democratic Denmark has made him righteous and ready to tell stories with strong male and female voices.

Sarah Hassan.

Sarah Hassan.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“With Crime & Justice, the women are the stronger characters, with the men trying to catchup with them. For example, Makena doesn’t respect authority and does not follow the formal way of doing things. She follows her heart and does what she thinks it’s right as she attempts to make the world a better place.”

Scriptwriting

The Showmax deal involves Adam fulfilling the traditional showrunner role by overseeing everything, including the idea and scriptwriting process, directing, shooting and editing.

Working alongside Adam in the production team is an all-star Kenyan crew of about 100 people, including co-producer Maureen Wanjiku (Subira, Kenya’s 2019 Oscar entry, East Africa’s Got Talent); two-time Kalasha award-winning lighting technician Walter Odhiambo (Plan B, 40 Sticks); cinematographer Sammy Maina (Lost in Africa, Country Queen), who’ll be taking over from Helge Gerull after Episode 2; art director Eugene Oyoo (Kenya’s 2018 Oscar entry Supa Modo); and casting director Lorella Jowi (Watu Wote, Kenya’s first Oscar-nominated film).

The casting audition of about 800 people ended with close to 20 cast members.

“Getting my team members was a very interesting process because I had no networks when I landed in Kenya last year,” he says. “A lot of things had to be done online, especially because of the pandemic.”

The team started shooting the eight 50-minute episodes in December and will be done in April.

“The most important thing for me as a creator of the show is that Kenyans are able to find themselves in the show, as well as relate to it. I hope that the reality of the show will remind Kenyans what they truly care about. The future of the show is completely Showmax’s decision from here,” concludes Adam.

Kenyan productions

While this is the first Kenyan Showmax Original, it is not the first foray into original Kenyan content for the MultiChoice Group, Showmax’s parent company.

The company produces more than 10 original Kenyan productions each year, including some of the most popular series on its flagship East African channel Maisha Magic, like Kina, Selina, Pete and Chozi.

“We are fundamentally an African business and are invested in telling African stories that reflect the lives, languages and cultures of the continent. We believe in African talent and look forward to shining the international spotlight on not only Kenyan stars, but the Kenyan technical industry’s capabilities,” said CEO of MultiChoice Connected Video Yolisa Phahle.

“We believe that streaming video is a powerful way to deliver these shared stories. This is one of many more Showmax originals we have in the pipeline across Africa.”

Crime & Justice follows the announcement of the first CANAL+ and MultiChoice co-production earlier this year, Blood Psalms, which will premiere on Showmax in 2021.

Based on ancient African mythology, Blood Psalms is an epic 10-part series that chronicles the rise to power of a fierce teenaged princess, Zazi (Bokang Phelane from Keeping Score, Emoyeni), who battles a world-ending prophecy to navigate her people through ancient curses, long-standing tribal vendettas, and the wrath of the Gods.

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