HBO's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" has two comely and charming stars in Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose, but the most prominent player in the dramedy may be its host country, Botswana.
Scott and Rose raved about the experience of working in the African nation during the sesh on the show, a coproduction of the BBC, Weinstein Co. and HBO, at TCA on Friday.
The two-hour telepic/pilot for "Detective Agency," which bows March 29, was among the last project that Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack worked on before their deaths last year. It was important to Minghella and Pollack that "Detective Agency" reflect "the wonder of Africa as a place and the gorgeousness of its people," said exec producer Richard Curtis, who co-wrote the telepic screenplay with Minghella. (Curtis appeared via satellite from South Africa.)
"I didn't completely get it until I saw Botswana and I saw people who looked like me," said Scott (pictured above). Rose said tackling such a specific accent was tough until she "really got to be around the people of area and take those rhythms into my person."
Exec producer Harvey Weinstein enthused that Scott and Rose had an instant onscreen chemistry as the plucky pair of femme sleuths made popular in the series of "Detective Agency" novels by Alexander McCall Smith.
"I think these two are going to give Watson and Holmes some name-checks in years to come," Weinstein said.
He credited HBO with being "the brave network" that would allow them to actually shoot in Botswana. The working conditions can be tough at times, Scott noted, especially with the heat and the padding she has to wear to portray the plump Precious Ramotswe. (At the moment Scott has natural padding from the baby she's expecting in April.)
But all of the surface problems dissipated once she got under the skin of her character, Scott said.
"If somebody as kind and as gentle and as genius as Anthony Minghella has faith in you, you can't help but have faith in yourself," Scott said.
The series, with its colorful palette and sweet and funny storytelling, is fitting last chapter of Minghella's career, Weinstein said.
"Every time we see one of these episodes it reminds us of Anthony and of course his great partner, Sydney Pollack. Their legacy lives. That's the great thing about our industry."