Epic book-to-screen adaptations on Showmax

7 September 2023

Epic book-to-screen adaptations on Showmax

Did you know that these series and movies were based on books? From classic texts to chick-lit, from epic fantasies to real-life memoirs, the source material for all of these binge-worthy shows, now on Showmax or coming soon, first appeared in print.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs Harris Goes To Paris on Showmax

When Christian Dior launched his New Look in 1947, he turned the elite world of couture into headline news, and fashion into obsession – whether you dressed in potato sacks or silk. Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel Flowers for Mrs Harris captures this fashion fever in the tale of poor London housecleaner Mrs Ada Harris, who becomes determined to fly to Paris and get her hands on her very own Dior gown after she comes into some money unexpectedly.

Now Lesley Manville (Joan in Ordinary Love) brings all Mrs. Harris’s dreamy courage, down-to-earth practicality, and humour to screen again in a new comedy-drama. And you won’t be the only one swept up in her quest! While Dior director Claudine (Isabelle Huppert) turns her nose up at this nobody who knocks at her door with a grubby fist full of cash, Ada’s sincere passion for beauty and working-class grit soon win her allies and determined fans including André (Lucas Bravo, Paul in Ticket to Paradise) the Dior accountant, and Natasha (Alba Baptista), a Dior model.

I Know This Much Is True

Despite several high profile roles and commercial successes, and a respectable number of award nominations to his name, Mark Ruffalo somehow still seems to be somewhat under the radar. In this adaptation of Wally Lamb’s 1998 novel, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance for HBO, Ruffalo stars in two roles: identical twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey.

Thomas has mental illness, which shapes both their lives, and Dominick fills the role of his fierce protector, despite the damage and drama wrought by Thomas, despite the anger, frustration and humiliation. It’s beautifully serious, poignant, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. It’s about love without the sentimentality.

Lovecraft Country

In the 1950s, Atticus, a young African-American, sets out on a road trip with his friend and uncle to find his missing father. This catapults the three into a struggle for survival against the dual terrors of Jim Crow-era America and terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a paperback written by pulpy horror author HP Lovecraft.

Based on the cult novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country is a collaboration between Misha Green (creator of Underground, named Best New Cable/New Media Show of 2016 by the African-American Film Critics Association) and Oscar winner Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out), executive produced by JJ Abrams (Star Wars, Star Trek, Lost, Super 8, Westworld). 

The fantastic cast includes Black Reel nominee Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Da 5 Bloods), Teen Choice nominee Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Birds of Prey, Friday Night Lights), four-time Emmy nominee Michael Kenneth Williams (When They See Us, The Night Of), Golden Globe nominee Courtney B Vance (The People Vs OJ Simpson, Law & Order), Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Neon Demon), and Nigerian BAFTA winner Wunmi Mosaku (Luther, The End of the F*ing World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). 

Lovecraft Country is currently the sixth most popular horror series on IMDb and has a 90% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As Newsday put it, “To call Lovecraft Country ‘wildly original’ seems almost a quaint understatement. But it is wild. And original. Little doubt about that.”

On The Come Up

Jamila C. Gray stars as Bri On The Come Up

A musical drama film adapted from a 2019 novel by Angie Thomas. It follows 16-year-old Bri (Jamila Gray) as she pursues her dream of becoming a rap sensation.

Based on the New York Times’ #1 best-selling novel by award-winning novelist and former teen rapper Angie Thomas, who also wrote The Hate U Give, the screenplay was written by Emmy-nominated Nigerian writer and producer Kay Oyegun (This Is Us), who earned a nomination for the 2023 Black Reel Award for Outstanding First Screenplay for the film.

On the Come Up has drawn critical praise for its star, newcomer Jamila Gray, as well as its director, Emmy nominee and Black Reel Award winning actress Sanaa Lathan (Succession, The Affair), with Variety saying: “As frank and tough-minded and as it is warm and sweet, On the Come Up is a hugely promising debut from the actor-turned-director.”

Game of Thrones S1-8

Possibly the most epic adaptation of them all, over eight seasons, the adaptation of George RR Martin’s novels made television history from 2011 till 2019.

Lavish budgets, attention to detail, stunning locations, and a story of kings and queens and war and betrayal and incest and love and murder in a battle for control over the mythical land of Westeros, doesn’t even begin to cover it. And just for good measure, it has zombies AND dragons.

Recipes for Love and Murder

When a woman who wrote to her seeking advice is found dead, recipe advice columnist Tannie Maria and her colleague, rookie journalist Jessie, spring into action, determined to solve this small-town murder and catch the killer. 

Based on the first of Sally Andrew’s bestselling Tannie Maria novels, For Love and Murder was selected for Berlinale Series Market Selects 2022 – described as being for “curated series with high market potential”, the same strand Donkerbos screened in this year. 

Award-winning Irish actress Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors, Outlander, Orphan Black) stars as Maria Purvis, aka Tannie Maria. The rest of the cast is entirely South African, with Kylie Fisher (Zamanti in Troukoors) earning shoutouts from the likes of Variety and Decider for her breakthrough role as Jessie. Also look out for SAFTA nominees Tony Kgoroge and Jennifer Steyn as chief detective Khaya Meyer and Hattie Wilson, publisher of the Karoo Gazette, respectively, plus a host of familiar faces. 

The Plot Against America

Power couple Ed Burns and David Simon (The Wire) adapted the 2004 novel by Philip Roth for this six-part HBO miniseries that imagines an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh beats Franklin D Roosevelt to what would have been his third term in the White House, on the cusp of World War II.

The story is told from the point of view of the Levin family: patriarch Herman (Morgan Spector), his wife Bess (Zoe Kazan), and their two sons, Sandy (Caleb Malis) and Azhy Robertson as Philip, the younger one. Winona Ryder plays Evelyn Finkel, Bess’s older, unmarried, independently minded sister, who is having an affair with a married man but then falls for the charismatic rabbi and Lindbergh supporter, Lionel Bengelsdorf, played superbly by John Turturro. At the heart of the series is Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism and the effect on the Levins.


Our very own Deon Meyer is a bestselling crime author whose books are translated and sold all over the world. His tale of espionage, international terrorism, and smuggling has made a compelling transition to the small screen.

Made in collaboration with HBO’s sister network Cinemax and Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF, Trackers is a superbly homegrown work of art which illustrates the calibre of South African acting talent as well as the scope of the stunning locations across the country.

The Wife S1-3

The Wife is a Showmax Original telenovela that follows the lives of the eight Zulu brothers, a formidable crime family, through the eyes of the women they marry.

Inspired by the novel Hlomu the Wife, a bestseller by Dudu Busani-Dube. Rising star Mbalenhle Mavimbela (Skeem Saam, Isipho) plays “Hlomu the wife”, the journalist who falls in love with a taxi driver, not realising that when you marry a man, you marry his secrets. Her love interest, Mqhele, is played by Bonko Khoza, who burst onto the acting scene as Jabz in the multi-award-winning film Necktie Youth and has since appeared in the likes of Professionals and the Emmy-nominated Roots.  

Season 2 is inspired by the follow-up novel, Zandile the Resolute. The role of Zandile, the fierce matriarch of the Zulu family, is played by Khanyi Mbau (Happiness is a Four-Letter Word) and Mondli Makhoba (Umkhokha) reprises his role as Nkosana, the eldest Zulu brother in The Wife. Produced by Stained Glass, Season 1 of The Wife opened to rave reviews in November 2021, becoming the most-watched launch on Showmax ever. The show trended at the top of Twitter every Thursday during its run, for 13 consecutive weeks. All three season are available to binge-watch.