November 9, 2023 -Hulu has carved a niche for itself as a platform committed to telling diverse and powerful stories, particularly those led by Black women. “Black Cake,” the latest jewel in Hulu’s crown, produced by the iconic Oprah Winfrey, is no exception. This sweeping eight-episode family drama, adapted from Charmaine Wilkerson’s New York Times-bestselling novel, “Black Cake,” is an exploration of the extraordinary life of a biracial Jamaican Chinese woman and the legacy she leaves behind.
The life of Eleanor Bennett
At its core, “Black Cake” delves into the remarkable journey of Eleanor Bennett, portrayed with depth and authenticity by Chipo Chung. Eleanor is a Jamaican Chinese woman whose life has unfolded across different continents and cultures.
Her past, however, remains shrouded in mystery, hidden even from her own children. It’s only after her passing that her children stumble upon a flash drive filled with her audio recordings, shedding light on a life they never truly knew.
As they navigate their mother’s revelations from beyond the grave, they are confronted with their own undeniable truths.
Diverse locations: Filming ‘Black Cake’ around the world
Filmed in diverse locations, including Jamaica, England, Italy, and the United States, “Black Cake” presents a vivid tapestry of Eleanor Bennett’s life. Mia Isaac, a rising star known for her roles in “Don’t Make Me Go” and “Not Okay,” breathes life into the character of Covey, the younger Eleanor.
Covey, an aspiring swimmer, is abandoned by her Jamaican mother and raised by her Chinese father Lin, and her mother’s close friend, Pearl.
She embarks on a journey that takes her from Europe to America, transforming her into a confident and assertive woman who shares a complex relationship with her children, Byron and Benny.
Family secrets and shocking revelations
Eleanor’s audio recordings, entrusted to family friend and attorney Charles Mitch, portrayed by the talented Glynn Turman, unearth startling secrets that send shockwaves through the family.
Byron, brought to life by Ashley Thomas, is driven by his mother’s passion for swimming but must confront racial discrimination that has limited his career and self-esteem. Benny, portrayed by Adrienne Warren, is an artist and chef who has distanced herself from the family for nearly a decade, feeling overshadowed by her high-achieving brother.
Adding an intriguing layer to the narrative is the enigmatic presence of Mabel, a culinary superstar from Italy, portrayed by Sonita Henry.
“Black Cake” stands out as a departure from the conventional, particularly in its focus on Caribbean and Asian communities and other groups of color that have historically struggled to gain recognition in mainstream storytelling.
Showrunner Marissa Jo Cerar, known for her work on “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “13 Reasons Why,” brings a deeply personal touch to “Black Cake.” As a biracial woman, Cerar’s connection to the story infuses it with complex and aspirational characters that resonate across diverse audiences.
A series with various themes
The series explores themes such as mystery, murder, love, family, and self-discovery, leaving no emotional terrain uncharted. In their respective roles, Chipo Chung and Mia Isaac deliver compelling performances that immerse viewers in the story.
Mia Isaac, in particular, shines as she carries the weight of Covey’s character, embodying both innocence and resilience in the face of life’s unexpected challenges. The supporting cast, including Lashay Anderson, Ahmed Elhaj, and Karisse Yansen, contribute depth and nuance to the narrative.
Ashley Thomas, a British actor and former rapper, brings a commanding presence to the character of Byron, while Adrienne Warren, a Tony Award winner celebrated for her portrayal of Tina Turner on stage, offers a whimsical touch to Benny’s character.
Their on-screen chemistry beautifully captures the intricate dynamics of a brother-sister bond, simultaneously fragile and unbreakable. Sonita Henry’s portrayal of Mabel is equally captivating, demanding attention in every scene she graces.
Breaking boundaries in storytelling and representation
“Black Cake” is a groundbreaking series that not only entertains but also opens doors to diverse and dynamic storytelling possibilities.
By placing Caribbean women’s experiences at the forefront, the series reframes what may have been considered exotic through the lens of the white gaze, showcasing the real and lived lives of Caribbean women.
In an increasingly interconnected global society, “Black Cake” reminds us that the narratives of Caribbean women deserve recognition and celebration.