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Lola Olley

Lola Olley

Posted: March 27, 2009 05:17 PM

Botswana is the Backdrop for New HBO Series

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A TV series based in Africa is premiering this weekend on a premium cable television channel that isn't inundated with images of poverty and corruption. Botswana has become the beautiful backdrop for a new HBO series premiering this Sunday, March 29th. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, an HBO TV series based on the bestselling books by Alexander McCall Smith features the adventures of Mma Precious Ramotswe, played by singer/actress Jill Scott. Scott plays a determined woman who leaves her abusive husband and opens up Botswana's first female-headed detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana's capital city. Anika Noni Rose, Lucian Msamati, and Desmond Dube also star. The pilot was scripted by Richard Curtis and the late Anthony Minghella.

"I think this batch of extraordinary characters is really what appeals to everybody. Over the course of the series you'll see these characters as not trying to fit in but trying to make the most of who they are," said Timothy Bricknell, a producer on the project.

"I think it's a very different, more positive picture of Africa, quite a surprising picture for some people who have never been here," said the director of episodes 05-07, Tim Fywell.

Unlike other African- based entertainment projects that choose not to shoot on location or even stick to any form of authenticity regarding country history (think Tears of the Sun shot in Hawaii), The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency shot its 105-minute pilot for HBO on location in Botswana and showcases authentic, local clothing styles that are as prominent as the colorful characters.

Costume designer, Jo Katsaras, made it a point to accurately depict the characters based on what she saw on the ground in the southern African country. "When I first arrived, what I saw was very monochromatic, and then I started to look a little bit deeper and there were the interesting textures... I've used a lot of the local prints. I've injected quite a lot of that in. "

From the costumes to the set to the writing and direction, authenticity appears to be a very high priority for the cast, crew and show runners.

Location Manager, Deon Du Preez, stated that he thought it pretty important "to introduce the country of Botswana to the rest of the world out there. "

"I want people to enjoy exciting, funny detective stories and I want them to be surprised by recognizing themselves and their own culture in an African culture, "said Bricknell when he described his hopes for the series.

Colin Salmon, the actor who plays "Note Mokoti", Mma's husband, thinks the ramifications of this series could be transformational. "This is an African story that is gonna go global and I think the success of this show pearls a new era in drama maybe."

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency premieres Sunday evening, March 29th at 8 pm ET on HBO.