When the witch-centric series Siempre Bruja premiered on Netflix in February, it garnered a large amount of criticism on Twitter for its premise: A time-traveling Afro-Colombian witch goes to the 21st-century at the behest of a wizard who promises to save the life of her lover--a white man who turns out to be her slaveholder's son.
Black witches often receive the short end of the stick in fantasy television. They are usually sidekicks who aid the white lead with relatively little to no backstory. The combined viewer frustration from Siempre Bruja begged the question: When will we get a show about Black witches without the stench of slavery and white saviors?
Answering the call is Juju, a mystical, dark fantasy web series written by Jhé "Moon" Ferguson.
L-R: "Yaya" played by Cassandra Borgella, "Ally" played by Cydni Jenkins, "Gigi" played by Nedge Victome. Photo: Ty Stone
Described as Charmed meets Insecure, Juju revolves around three best friends who get the shock of their lives when they discover they are witches. As they struggle to harness their powers and break a generational curse placed by a witch of Salem, their biggest challenge yet looms on the horizon--everyday adulting.
Like many young adults, Ally, Gigi and Yaya grapple with the process of adulting, while tackling the qualms of being Black millennial women in America. However, on the night of Ally's (the youngest of the trio) 28th birthday, the group of friends learns they are descendants of powerful Yoruba witches. From then on, their adulting comes with paranormal twists of hookups with vampires, pissing off Salem descendants and making sure the rent is paid as they step over to the dark side. Some of the themes Juju will feature include Black mysticism, Black ancestral magic, Black sisterhood, and Black culture.
"This is a story of three strong, bold Black women," Ferguson says. "Women who can't be tamed. It's time for more Black faces to be the hero of their own magical journey."
Like Insecure, each member of the trio that forms the heart of Juju is different in terms of their personality. In a way that captures Black representation across the diaspora, all three women are also different in terms of their heritage and history.
Cydni Jenkins as Ally. Photo Credit: Ty Stone
Ally, as played by Cydni Jenkins, is a descendant of powerful women who practice Santería from the shores of Cuba. At 28 years old, she is an anxiety-ridden millennial prone to compare herself to others, especially in the matters of her career as she approaches 30.
Nedge Victome as Gigi. Photo Credit: Ty Stone
Here to quell her worries is Gigi, the descendant of powerful voodoo and priestesses from Haiti and the Louisiana bayou. Described by Ferguson as a mixture of "Beyoncè, Rihanna and Cardi B," she's a seductress desired by men and envied by women. As portrayed by Nedge Victome, Gigi is pro-woman and not one to hold her tongue when it comes to tearing down the patriarchy.
Cassandra Borgella as Yaya. Photo: Ty Stone
Serving as the backbone and the rock that grounds their tight-knit group in place is Yaya, as played by Cassandra Borgella. A descendant of Obeah woman in the Jamaican mountains, Yaya is an empath and a healer. She's a giver by nature and asks for nothing in return.
A Florida native with a Chinese and Jamaican background, Ferguson created Juju out of a desire to see more people who looked like her in the realm of fantasy and the supernatural.
Diedra McDowell as Adaoma. Photo: Ty Stone
"I wanted to experience supernatural beings who look like me; witches and seers that I could relate to," Ferguson says in her Kickstarter campaign. "Blacks and people of color are very underrepresented in the fantasy genre, a genre we genuinely love."
To tell the tale of Juju in an authentic manner, Ferguson assembled a team of predominantly Black women to assist in writing, casting, producing, VFX, directing and social media management.
Fresh off of writing and directing the pilot episode, Ferguson has organized a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for the first season of Juju: The Webseries. The campaign, listed by Kickstarter as one of their a "Project We Love", ends on May 31. Backers who pledge a donation can receive rewards such as digital spell books, amulets, crystals, and oracle readings. You can support the first season of Juju in their post-production Kickstarter campaign here.
Watch a video clip of Juju below.
Photo: Ty Stone