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The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a television comedy-drama series, produced by the BBC in conjunction with HBO, and based on the novels of the same name by Alexander McCall Smith. The novels focus on the story of a detective agency opened by Mma Ramotswe and her courtship with the mechanic Mr. JLB Matekoni. The series was filmed on location in Botswana and was seen as one of the first major film or television productions to be undertaken in Botswana. (The Gods Must Be Crazy, a 1980 film set in Botswana was filmed mainly in South Africa.)
The programme began with a feature-length pilot episode on 23 March 2008. Executive producer Anthony Minghella directed the episode and co-wrote the adaptation with fellow executive producer Richard Curtis. A six-episode series concluded in the UK on 19 April 2009. HBO began broadcasting the series on 29 March 2009. In 2010 the show won a Peabody Award for its 2009 season. It was cancelled due to poor ratings.
While HBO failed to renew the show after its first season, HBO announced in summer 2011 that the show may continue as two or more standalone films. The following year HBO revealed they had decided not to move forward with the project. Producers may look to resurrect the show on another network.
Cast and characters
Anika Noni Rose as Mma Makutsi, Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe, and Lucian Msamati as Mr. JLB Matekoni
Grammy Award-winning singer/actress Jill Scott stars as the titular detective Mma Ramotswe. Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose plays assistant detective Mma Grace Makutsi. London theatre actor Lucian Msamati plays car mechanic Mr. JLB Matekoni. Actor and comedian Desmond Dube plays BK, owner of the Last Chance Salon and friend to Mma Ramotswe.
British actors Colin Salmon, Idris Elba, and David Oyelowo also feature in the pilot. Elba plays Charlie Gotso, an adversary to Mma Ramotswe. Salmon plays Mma Ramotswe’s abusive ex-husband and trumpet player Note Mokoti. Oyelowo plays cheating husband Kremlin Busang. Tony award winner John Kani also appears as ‘dubious’ Daddy Bapetsi. Nikki Amuka-Bird plays jealous wife Alice Busang. Oyelowo, Kani and Amuka Bird all receive star billing in the feature-length pilot but will not continue as series regulars.
British actor Paterson Joseph will join the cast in a recurring role as Cephas Buthulezi, a rival detective. Tau Maseremule and Thabo Malema play Rra Matekoni’s young apprentices, Fanwell and Charlie. Vusi Kunene has a recurring role as Dr. Gulubane.
The Right Rev. Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba the Bishop of Botswana makes a cameo appearance as himself in the series’ third episode.
Casting the roles of Mma Makutsi and Mr. JLB Matekoni was completed early in the project. However, casting Mma Ramotswe proved to be more of a challenge. Producer Timothy Bricknell states that the character’s build and age excludes most well known actresses and that they initially began looking for an actress in Botswana before expanding their search throughout Africa and eventually on to London and Los Angeles. Jill Scott was shortlisted for the role but the producers were uncertain because of her relative lack of acting experience. Minghella decided to cast her after viewing clips of her poetry readings and musical performance and noting her rare screen presence. The decision was made just two weeks before production began.