Netflix's Live-Action Yasuke Series Casts Lupin Star Omar Sy As The Famed Black Samurai

Historians and pop culture aficionados alike have been fascinated with the story of Yasuke for centuries – -the real life tale of the first Black Samurai, first gaining notoriety in 16th century feudal Japan. As the story goes, an African slave named Yasuke arrived and rewrote his destiny from being a serviceman of Jesuit missionaries during the Nanban trade to becoming a great warrior and eventually a legendary ronin.

Yasuke was a real person who existed, but the lore surrounding him has been told and retold countless times across a variety of manga, anime, and video games. Netflix debuted an anime series in 2021 featuring the voice of LaKeith Stanfield in the titular role. Now the streaming giant is pursuing a new adaptation starring Omar Sy of "Lupin" fame, who has an overall deal with the streamer. The series will be a five-part event from Nick Jones Jr., the head writer of the anime, bringing "Yasuke" to live-action for the very first time.

"Getting a chance to finally bring Yasuke's legendary true story to life has been a dream of mine ever since I served in Japan as a Marine," Jones said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. Both Jones and Sy will executive produce the series, alongside Shawn Levy and Josh Barry of 21 Laps and Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi of Significant Productions. If these names sound familiar (outside of Forest Whitaker, obviously) it's because 21 Laps are the folks behind "The Adam Project," "Shadow and Bone," and a little show called "Stranger Things," while both Whitaker and Bongiovi produced Rebecca Hall's stunning directorial debut, "Passing."

A long time coming

"This is the perfect project for what Forest [Whitaker] and I strive for — the intersectionality of two cultures through great storytelling," Bongiovi said in a statement to THR. "To bring a real-life, historical figure to the forefront, paired with incredible action, with faces that represent both Black and Asian heritage — behind the camera and in front of the camera — equates a total dream scenario."

The live-action "Yasuke" adaptation will not be based on the fantastical Netflix series of the same name, but instead a more historically accurate interpretation of the figure. 21 Laps had optioned Craig Shreve's upcoming novel "African Samurai" to be used as source material. Paige Simpson, 21 Laps' vice president of television brought the book to Netflix, and will oversee the project alongside 21 Laps executive Moera Ainai.

The live-action adaptation is a long time coming, as the late, great, Chadwick Boseman was at one point attached to play the character in a film that unfortunately never came to fruition. "I've been inspired by Yasuke for quite a while," Sy said in the statement. "With this superb team, we are creating a remarkable series showcasing what it meant to be an African samurai in Japanese history." He ended by saying, "The action sequences alone are going to be phenomenal and ingenious." 

No word yet on when to expect "Yasuke," but this is a project we will definitely be following every step of the way.