Prime Video must have heard us complaining about the need for more nuanced Black representation in Hollywood, because its buzzy new series Riches is exactly what we’ve been waiting for. The new London-based series is the brainchild of writer and director Abby Ajayi and follows the inevitable implosion that takes place when the two families of a rich CEO go to war for control of his multi-million dollar company, and it’s really, really good. Riches has everything we’ve been asking for on television: scandal, mess, diasporic connections, and dark-skinned Black people front and center.
The power struggle between the Richards, a family with a relationship so strained that calling them mortal enemies might be a better description. The cause of this tension? Stephen Richards (Hugh Quarshie) and the piss poor execution of his duties as his family’s patriarch. On one side of the beef is Richard’s first family, his ex-wife Oyin (Jumoke Fashola), his oldest daughter Nina (Them’s Deborah Ayorinde), and his oldest son Simon (Emmanuel Imani), and they’re all pretty much estranged from him because he abandoned them to start anew with Claudia (Sarah Niles), the head of a new branch in the family tree that also includes their three kids Alesha (Adeyinka Akinrinade), Gus (Ola Orebiyi), and Wanda (Nneka Okoye).
As if things weren’t bad enough for the Richards family dynamic, Stephen’s sudden death thrusts them into war when his will names Nina and Simon as the new heads of Flair & Glory, the successful cosmetic company that he founded (with the help of their mother). At the helm of the company, Nina is forced to reckon with the many stresses of being a Black CEO in a very white industry — and the daddy issues she thought she’d tucked away all these years.
“Nina is a beautiful, badass boss who gets what she wants,” says Deborah Ayorinde, the actress charged with bringing the lead character to life, during a phone call with Unbothered. “But underneath all of that Black girl magic, she wants to belong. She’s really trying to figure out where she belongs and with whom she belongs. And Flair & Glory represents that for her.”
That personal yet all-too-relatable journey to self-discovery is one of the big themes that’s hitting home with Riches viewers, specifically for third culture kids like Nina, like Ayorinde herself, and like me. I was born in Nigeria and raised both in the United Kingdom and the United States, and trying to find my place in those different communities has been…a process. But it’s also been a blessing. I know firsthand that Blackness isn’t a monolith and that in all of its forms, it's beautiful. Seeing it on Riches is a reminder of that beauty, and a necessary one — especially in a culture that’s doing its best to combat that truth.
“This is the first time I've ever seen Black people in the UK portrayed in this way on TV,” Ayorinde says. “It's not right nor is it fair or nor is it truthful to portray us in one or two or three ways when we are so much more, so this is a portrayal that is long overdue.”
Like me, Ayorinde is also Nigerian and has called both the U.S. and the UK her home at various points in her life. You can hear it in her voice, too, the different cultures she belongs to creating a striking continental accent peppered with tones from the Bay Area and the DMV (from her time at the mecca of Blackness, Howard University).
“I have a lot in common with Nina, so I really had to find that balance,” Ayorinde says. “I do that with all my roles, but particularly this one because we are so similar in our paths. Like, I literally sat down with my mom and my sisters to really talk about what it was like moving from London to America together. Being an immigrant is such an interesting, unique experience. You’re holding on to yourself, trying to be a part of something while feeling like you’re everywhere and nowhere at the same time. But you almost become a translator of sorts.”
“I've had the blessing of having the Black experience from different vantage points,” she continues. “What that’s shown me is that while we have so many differences, we also have a lot of shared experiences. I hope that by emphasizing that, Riches can be unifier for all of us.”
As proud as she is of the deep introspection that Riches has sparked for its cast and its audience alike, Ayorinde is also really enjoying the sheer messiness of it all. The show takes mess to another level; paternity secrets, embezzlement, closeted rendezvous, and revenge are everyday occurrences in the soap opera that is the Richards’ life. And Ayorinde, a lover of mess, is enjoying the viewers’ passionate reaction to the mayhem on social media. She’s seen all of our tweets and gifs while watching the show, and she’s thrilled that everyone is connecting so deeply to this story.
“I usually don't actually read tweets and things for my work, to be honest, because sometimes it can get a little crazy on there, but one of my favorite things to do lately has been to go on Twitter and read the tweets,” Ayorinde giggles.
“People have been hungry for a show like this,” she smiles. “It's truthful to speak about our pain and what we've been through and how we've overcome and are overcoming. But we also need stories about our fabulousness and our family drama and who is messing with who, or how we've got so much money, we don't even know what to do with it. Riches is just another beautiful reminder of how multi-faceted we are. A truthful portrayal of us, you know?”
Riches has been a hit with Prime Video audiences, and we’re all manifesting another season (or ten) for Ayorinde and the rest of the cast. Should the show be renewed by the streamer, its leading lady has a few ideas, starting with one: “I want Nina to be in a really messy love triangle — no, a love square!”
We’ll take that new season immediately, thank you.
The first season of Riches is now streaming on Prime Video.