Barack Obama Is Producing a Claudine Gay Drama Series for Netflix Starring Lupita Nyong'o

Barry Keoghan will play the racist right-wing journalist obsessed with taking down Harvard's first black woman president

Barack Obama is producing a new drama series for Netflix about the life of Claudine Gay, the former Harvard University president who resigned in disgrace earlier this year amid accusations of plagiarism.

The new series, tentatively titled American Shahid, will debut on the streaming platform in early 2025. Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o has signed on to play the leading role, while Barry Keoghan will play the right-wing journalist behind the coordinated racist plot to destroy Gay's career and reputation as a prominent woman of color in charge of a storied institution.

Higher Ground, the production company Barack and Michelle Obama launched in 2018 by signing a partnership deal with Netflix worth an estimated $50 million, is eager to add to its award collection after producing the Oscar-winning documentary American Factory in 2020.

The announcement comes after Obama reportedly lobbied Harvard officials to support Gay in the face of mounting calls for her resignation. Gay initially came under fire in early December following her disastrous testimony on Capitol Hill during which she struggled, as any university president would, to answer questions about whether calls for Jewish genocide would be considered appropriate on campus.

Subsequent complaints filed with the university alleged that Gay, the first black woman president of Harvard, committed numerous instances of plagiarism throughout her scholarly work in the field of African-American Studies, a routine practice weaponized by right-wing critics leading a campaign against powerful black voices.

To wit, the Harvard Corporation conducted an "independent review" of Gay's published research and found "no violation of Harvard's standards." Critics questioned the thoroughness of Harvard's review, especially when additional allegations of plagiarism surfaced, but lawyers for Gay argued that even printing the allegations in a major newspaper was defamatory.

After resigning in January, Gay penned a defiant op-ed in the New York Times denouncing her critics as cynical "opportunists" eager to bring down a powerful black woman. "I make an ideal canvas for projecting every anxiety about the generational and demographic changes unfolding on American campuses: a Black woman selected to lead a storied institution," she wrote. "Someone who views diversity as a source of institutional strength and dynamism."

Editor's Note: Today is April 1, 2024.