Written and created by Abby Ajayi, Prime Video’s Riches is a delicious and highly bingeable global drama series. The show follows Nina Richards (Deborah Ayorinde), whose carefully curated world in Brooklyn comes crashing around her when she learns that her estranged father, Stephen Richards (Hugh Quarshie), has died unexpectedly. Convinced by her brother Simon (Emmanual Imani) to attend their father’s funeral in the U.K., Nina realizes that the late mogul has left more than a few loose ends.
Upon landing in the U.K. and encountering their hostile stepmother, Claudia (Sarah Niles), and half-siblings, Gus (Ola Orebiyi), Alesha (Adeyinka Akinrinade), and Wanda (Nneka Okoye), Nina and Simon learn that their father has left his beauty empire, Flair & Glory in their hands. What happens next is more than any of the Richards — especially Nina could have expected.
Ahead of the series Dec. 2 debut, Shadow and Act spoke with Ajai, Ayorinde, Imani, and the rest of the cast about the Black family drama, the African diaspora, and accurate representation.
“It emerged from thinking about areas I was interested in,” Ajayi shared about her idea for Riches. “In the first instance, I like family dramas, but I always prefer them to have more of an engine. And so family business dramas are my thing. It’s interesting that those dynamics when money and blood mix and drama ensue, going from the sitting room back to the boardroom and the complexities of those intimate betrayals on a business level.”
Since Black family dramas are still a rarity on television, Ajayi knew that Riches needed to have several dimensions in it. “The final piece came when I added hair to it because I think Black hair is so central and is such a big part of our lives for Black women,” she explained. “But it’s also, on the one hand, incredibly lucrative. And yet, until relatively recently, we often didn’t share in the profit from that business. And similarly, it’s so politicized. It’s also about hitting colorism. It’s hitting about all those slightly naughtier, more tangled issues about what is Black beauty today and how we all feel differently about that, as well. So that’s the origin point for the show.”
For Ayorinde stepping into Nina’s shoes was unlike anything she’d ever experienced before in her career. “I think one of the main things that really drew me to the series is the representation of us,” she explained. “This is the first time I’ve seen a Black family out of the U.K. portrayed like this: wealthy, beautiful, fabulous, glossy, aspirational. So for me, it has just been so exciting to be a part of it. I think it’s important for people to see that, to know that we’re not a monolith. We’re many different things. And I think we have different experiences as Black people, but we also have a lot of shared experiences. So I think it’s just an exciting movement, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
For Imani, bringing Simon to life was the opportunity to stretch beyond the one or two-dimensional characters that are often available to artists in the U.K. “Unfortunately, in the U.K., we’re not there yet where America is in terms of seeing this representation and being given characters that are of color and are beyond just two dimensional,” he explained. “Never find out why they’re doing what they’re doing, who they’re supporting at home, and what journey they’ve been on. Our fantastic showrunner, Abby, gives everybody some truth and a journey, a path, a story, and a backstory. She’s breathed life into these characters in such a way, and then we take it further. But yeah, it’s incredible to be a part of something like this that’s never been done out of the U.K., quite frankly, ever.”
Watch the full interviews, which also include exclusives from Ola Orebiyi, Adeyinka Akinrinade, and Nneka Okoye, below:
Riches debuts Dec. 2 on Prime Video.