Marissa Jo Cerar is taking Charmaine Wilkerson’s upcoming debut novel, “Black Cake,” to Hulu. Following “a heated bidding war” with other streamers, Hulu has ordered an adaptation of the book to series, Deadline reports. Cerar will pen the project and serve as showrunner. Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Kapital Entertainment are producing.
Set to be published in February, “Black Cake” is a decades-spanning family drama-murder mystery. “In the late 1960s, a runaway bride named Covey disappears into the surf off the coast of Jamaica and is feared drowned or a fugitive on the run for her husband’s murder,” per its synopsis. “Fifty years later in California, Eleanor Bennett, a widow in her 60s, loses her battle with cancer, leaving her two estranged children a flash drive that holds previously untold stories of her journey from the Caribbean to America. These stories, narrated by Eleanor, shock her children and challenge everything they thought they knew about their family’s origin.”
“Black Cake” is named for “a dish that signifies the marriage of cultures at the heart of the story,” according to Deadline. “Black cake evolved from the British plum pudding that colonizers brought to the West Indies. Islanders then modified the recipe, incorporating their local ingredients.”
Cerar and Winfrey are executive producing the adaptation, as are Carla Gardini and Emily Rudolf.
Cerar was reading “Black Cake” as she was finalizing her overall deal with Kapital, which is also the company behind her ABC anthology series “Women of the Movement.” “Kapital went after the rights to the book for Cerar to develop into a series as her first project under the deal,” the source notes. “At the same time, Harpo also was pursuing the novel. Cerar, who had an existing relationship with Harpo’s Gardini and Rudolf from developing a project there, helped kick off conversations that resulted in the two companies teaming to produce together.”
“Women of the Movement,” which tells the stories of women civil rights activists, is scheduled to premiere midseason. Its first season — helmed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Tina Mabry, Julie Dash, and Kasi Lemmons — focuses on Mamie Till-Mobley, whose son Emmett Till was brutally murdered by two white men in the Jim Crow South. Carer is the creator, showrunner, and exec producer. Her other writing and producing credits include “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “13 Reasons Why,” and “Shots Fired.” Her feature screenplay “Conversion” is in development at K Period Media.
Among the other projects on Winfrey’s producing slate are a “1619 Project” docuseries at Hulu and Yvonne Orji’s semi-autobiographical Disney+ comedy.