All-Nigerian Voice Cast Unveiled for “Iyanu” Animated Superhero Series Coming to Cartoon Network and Max

May 22, 2024

May 20, 2024 – Cartoon Network and Max announced today the all-Nigerian cast for “Iyanu,” the epic superhero animated-series steeped in Nigerian culture and mythology. A Lion Forge Entertainment production, “Iyanu” is an adaptation of Dark Horse Comics/YouNeek Studios’ popular graphic novel series Iyanu: Child of Wonder by award-winning Nigerian creator and producer Roye Okupe. Leading the voice cast is Serah Johnson as Iyanu, a teenage heroine who must uncover the mystery behind her newfound powers to save her people from an ancient curse threatening to destroy humanity. Johnson, known for her extensive voiceover work within the animation industry and audiobooks, is the first Nigerian and African to win the Society of Voice Arts Award (SOVAS) for Outstanding Animation Character – Film or TV – Best African VoiceOver for her work on “Moji.”

In Addition to Johnson, “Iyanu” is made up of promising new talent along with experienced and esteemed actors including TV personality and City People Award winner for Fast Rising Male Actor Okey Jude (“Hotel Labamba,” “The Governor’s Daughter”) who joins the cast as Biyi, Iyanu’s carefree adventurer friend. Recognized as the official IVR (Interactive Voice Response) on Nigeria’s largest telecommunications network MTN between 2013 and 2015, Jude also earned an Africa Choice Awards nomination for “The Most Promising Male Movie Star of 2022.” Samuel Kugbiyi, a multifaceted artist with a career spanning from childhood, comes on board as Iyanu’s bookworm friend Toye. Noteworthy among Kugbiyi’s creative endeavors is the acclaimed musical drama “Tafiya Lafiya: The Journey,” where he was both a writer and performer.

African Movie Academy Awards winner and Nollywood actress Adesua Etomi-Wellington (“King of Boys,” “Gangs of Lagos”) will voice Olori, who Vogue named as one of their 14 global superstars in 2019 alongside Scarlett Johansson, Deepika Padukone and Vanessa Kirby; set to play Toye’s father Kanfo is one of Nollywood’s foremost leading men Blossom Chukwujekwu (“Falling,” “Stolen Lives”) who is celebrated with multiple wins and nominations across Nigeria’s award shows like the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, Best Of Nollywood Awards, Golden Movies Awards, among others; Nigerian- born entertainer and author of “Màmá, It’s A Girl” Stella Damasus (“Gone”) is set to play Sewa; Shaffy Bello (“The Score,” “Battleground”), a Best of Nollywood Awards nominee, has signed on to voice Emi – The One Mother; and esteemed actor Ike Ononye (“Doc Martin,” “The Lovers”) is Elder Alapani.

“Iyanu” is a superhero tale set in the magical kingdom of Yorubaland, which draws from Nigerian culture, music and mythology. Drawing deeply from the rich tapestry of Yoruba people, the animated series follows a teenage orphan girl, Iyanu, who spends her days studying history and ancient arts but yearns for a normal life. One day, responding to danger, she unknowingly triggers her divine powers, the likes of which have not been seen since the Age of Wonders. With newly discovered superpowers, Iyanu joins forces with two other teenagers, Biyi and Toye, as they embark on a remarkable journey to discover the truth about the evil lurking in her homeland. Throughout her adventure, she’ll uncover the truth about her past, her parents, and her ultimate destiny to save the world. 

  
“Iyanu” is slated for release in the US on Cartoon Network and Max in 2025 and has a 26 episode, two season order.


Brandon Easton (Transformers: War for Cybertron: SeigeMarvel’s Agent Carter) headed the writers’ room, with Roye Okupe serving as the executive producer, writer, and director on multiple episodes. The show’s Executive producers are David Steward II and Matt Heath from Lion Forge Entertainment, Erica Dupuis of Impact X Capital, Ryan Haidarian of Forefront Media Group and Doug Schwalbe.

 

Talent Bios
 

Serah Johnson (Iyanu)
Serah Johnson, born June 26th, 2000, is a Professional and versatile Voice Talent. She has worked alongside award winning Audiobook publishing companies, audio storytelling platforms, Animation studios as well as premium brands to help breathe life into written word and give their stories the most authentic and engaging expression. She’s also the first Nigerian and African to win the Society of Voice Arts awards (SOVAS) for Outstanding VoiceOver for TV and Film in Africa, for the year 2022. She is the Director of Tok studios, a studio that specializes in providing recording and engineering services for voiceovers, podcasts, mixing and mastering as well as sound design. She is also a Facilitator at the VoiceOver Academy, Africa’s biggest school for Voiceover, where she teaches Voiceover for Animation. For her, Voiceovers are more than just talking or reading, it’s breathing life and expression into the written word, helping the end listener feel super connected to a story being told.



Okey Jude (Biyi)
Okey Jude is an actor, commercial model, voice actor, Tv presenter and news anchor. He is known for his roles in Hotel Labamba (Manager Ozumba Mbadiwe) Africa Magic series Dilemma (Newton Anolue), Ndani TV web series love like this (Remi), Nneka the pretty serpent (Mr Agu) and lead roles in several notable TV commercials for top global brands like Airtel, Peak Milk, MTN, Globacom and so many more. He was the official IVR (Interactive Voice Response) voice on Nigeria’s largest telecommunications network MTN between 2013 and 2015. He won the City People Award for fast rising male actor (English) in the year 2021, a nominee for “The most promising male movie star of 2022 by the “Africa Choice Awards” and since then hasn’t looked back. When he’s not on set filming, he enjoys playing Scrabble, chess and soccer.

 

Samuel Kugbiyi (Toye)
Samuel Kugbiyi is a multifaceted artist, excelling as an actor, voiceover talent, singer, and writer. With a career spanning from childhood, he has honed his craft on stage since the age of 8. Noteworthy among his creative endeavours is the acclaimed musical drama “Tafiya Lafiya: The Journey,” where he was both a writer and performer. Additionally, Samuel’s directorial prowess shone in the highly praised production “Beere,” where he also delivered a compelling performance. Kugbiyi’s creative footprint extends beyond the stage, as he has contributed his talents to various audio drama projects for esteemed organizations such as UNESCO and the BBC. His distinctive voice has graced the airwaves as a top-rated radio show host for an impressive seven years, further solidifying his status as a versatile and accomplished artist.



Adesua Etomi-Wellington (Olori)
Adesua Etomi-Wellington has proven to be a truly versatile talent in Nollywood. Bringing her skills to the big screen, Adesua has appeared in several Nigerian films including 5 of the top ten grossing films in Nollywood. She acted as Dunni Coker, in The Wedding Party 1 & 2 starring veteran actors Richard Mofe Damijo, Sola Sobowale and Iretiola Doyle. The Wedding Party 1&2 are the two highest grossing films in Nigeria. She was Kemi Salami in the lauded and breathtaking political thriller film, King of Boys. Adesua schooled in Nigeria before moving to the United Kingdom where she acquired a diploma in physical theatre, musical theatre and performing arts from City College Coventry, England. With triple distinctions, she went on to bag a First-class honours degree in Drama and Performance from the University of Wolverhampton. 
 

Excited about the Nigerian entertainment industry, Adesua moved back to start her career in Nollywood. Her big break came in 2014 with her first film and major role in the romantic drama, Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Soon after, she was back in front of the camera as the leading actress in Falling, for which she won theBest Actress in a Drama award in the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards. She was nominated alongside star actresses Genevieve Nnaji Fulu Mugovhani, Belinda Effah, MaryLazarus and Nse Ikpe-Etim. She not only graces the big screen with her talent, but Adesua also appears on television series and performs on the stage. She played Sheila in the fourth and fifth seasons of MTV Shuga, a television soap opera about HIV/AIDS prevention. On stage, she has played in The Crucible, The Grimm Tales, London Life Lagos Living, Saro the musical, among others. Adesua has received 6 awards and 18 nominations for her exceptional performances. 


|In 2019, she earned a nomination for the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award for Favorite African Star. Popularly referred to as Nigeria’s Sweetheart, Adesua has cemented her place in the hearts of people both on screen and off screen. Vogue named Adesua on its 2019 list of 14 global superstars with Scarlett Johansson, Deepika Padukone and Vanessa Kirby.

 

Blossom Chukwujekwu (Kanfo)
Blossom Chukwujekwu’s critically acclaimed performances has helped cement his place as one of Nollywood’s foremost leading men. His breakout movie Flower Girl premiered to critical and commercial success in Nigeria, Ghana, the United Kingdom and film festivals in the USA and Canada. In Flower Girl, Chukwujekwu played a charming and debonair action film star, who unwittingly finds loves in the most unexpected place. 


His next feature film; Finding Mercy was the closing film of the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF 2013). Blossom’s performance in Knocking On Heaven’s Door which was released in 2014, earned him the 2015 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Best Supporting Actor Award. In 2015, Blossom’s performances in two films; Falling and Stolen Lives resulted in two Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards 2016 nominations as the Best Actor In A Drama and Best Supporting Actor respectively.


His performance as Chuks in the hilarious comedy Ghana Must Go, earned him an Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice 2017 Best Actor In A Comedy nomination. Up next was Okafor’s Law released in 2017. The romantic comedy saw Blossom take on the lead role of Terminator, a recalcitrant playboy whose dishonorable ways with women lands him in a dire situation. Okafor’s Law closed the year as the fifth highest grossing Nollywood film of 2017.  


Blossom’s acting credits include The Trade, New Money, Market Must Sell, Catcher, Potato Pothato, The Visit and Gbomo Gbomo Express.


Blossom is able to effortlessly stride between the big and small screens. On Television, he is Malik Mustapha in Ebony Life TV’s Legal procedural – Castle & Castle. Blossom also stars in Shirley Frimpong’s Shampaign where he plays Francis Peters – the very ambitious campaign manager to Ghana’s first female presidential aspirant. Blossom also helmed the lead role of Kelechi Pepple in Nigeria’s first indigenous Telenovella; Taste Of Love (2015).


Blossom is a celebrated actor with award nominations and wins across the continent’s award platforms like the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, Best Of Nollywood Awards, Golden Movies Awards, Golden Icons Academy Movie Awards and Nollywood Movie Awards. Blossom is married, an avid video gamer and a long-suffering Arsenal FC supporter.



Ike Ononye (Elder Alapani)
Ike is an actor and voice over artist with several years of experience. Most recently, he was seen playing Dr Timothy Daniels in Doc Martin (ITV, Apple TV and Prime) and as Fannigan in The Lovers (Sky TV). He first caught the acting bug, age nine, doing a small West End play in the Arts Theatre (then called The Unicorn Theatre), with poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell and has since been in various theatre productions including This Is How It Goes at The English Theatre in Hamburg, for which he received rave reviews. An avid learner, Ike has worked hard on his craft over the years, including working with Jeremy Stockwell, a well know teacher at RADA. Ike is well known for his unique and rich voice and has been on radio dramas, such as Slayed Dog on the BBC World Service amongst others. When not acting or doing voice over work, Ike loves to hang out with family and friends, train at the gym, practice yoga and travel. He thoroughly enjoys cooking, reading, watching good films and programs, and playing video games. Ike is a self-ssed technophile and foodie, subjects he can talk about for hours.

 

Stella Damasus (Sewa)
Stella Damasus is a Nigerian-born entertainer based in the United States of America. She is most notable for her work as an actress; she has been in the Entertainment Industry for over two decades and has since been considered one of Africa’s most famous film actresses and celebrities. Stella is a woman with many talents. A graduate of Theatre Arts from the University Of Lagos, she is also a Publisher, Author of Màmá, It’s A Girl, Radio & TV Host, Acting and Vocal Coach, Event Host, Writer, Educator, Producer, and Entrepreneur. She is the CEO of ADIVA Networks, a media company. Under ADIVA Networks, she launchedher quarterly magazine, ADIVA Magazine. Stella has been a strong voice for the education of women and consistently fights against underage marriages and injustice against women and young girls.


She is the founder of Stella Damasus Arts Foundation and An Actor’s Playhouse. Stella Damasus Arts Foundation is a non-profit that helps women and young girls by supporting their education, health, and basic human rights, using arts as its primary tool. And An Actors Playhouse is a platform where she trains and educates actors.

 

Shaffy Bello – (Emi – The One Mother)
Shaffy Bello is a Nigerian film actress and singer. She first shot into the entertainment scene when she was a featured vocalist in the 1997 hit song, “Love Me Jeje”, by Seyi Sodimu. Shaffy grew up in the United States where she completed her education. Her first major film was “Eti Keta”, a Yoruba film. In 2012, she starred as Joanne Lawson in the TV series “Tinsel”, and as Adesuwa in “Taste of Love”. She received a Best Lead Actress nomination at the Best of Nollywood Awards for her work in “The Score”. Shaffy has since featured in over 60 Yoruba and English language films and TV series including “When Love Happens”, “Gbomo Gbomo Express”, and “Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman”, the first Yoruba- language film to premiere at TIFF.

 

About Max

Max®, which launched May 23, 2023, is an enhanced streaming platform from Warner Bros. Discovery, delivering unparalleled quality content for everyone in the household. With a personalized user experience that brings unique and unexpected stories ranging from the best of unscripted to the highest quality in scripted programming to live news to sports, Max is the destination for HBO Originals, Warner Bros. films, Max Originals, the DC universe, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, CNN Max, Bleacher Report Sports Add-On, an expansive offering of kids and family content, and best-in-class programming across food, home, reality, lifestyle, and documentaries from leading brands like HGTV, Food Network, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Channel, TLC, ID and more, all in one place.

 

About Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network is one of the most loved global animated networks. Widely seen by fans all over the world as the best in animation, Cartoon Network combines a rich legacy of characters and a deep roster of creatives with unique brands of storytelling. Showcasing original content from across Cartoon Network Studios, Warner Bros. Animation, Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe, and beyond, Cartoon Network programming includes “Craig of the Creek,” “Teen Titans Go!,” “We Baby Bears,” “Tiny Toons Looniversity,” and “The Heroic Quest of the Valiant Prince Ivandoe.” Cartoon Network’s content commitment appeals to the complete spectrum of kids and families including preschoolers with “Batwheels,” “Bugs Bunny Builders,” and more on Cartoonito, and blockbuster hits on the ultimate family destination, ACME Night.

 

About Lion Forge Entertainment

Lion Forge Entertainment, one of the only Black-owned animation studios of scale in North America, was founded in 2019 by David Steward II as a platform to amplify authentic, diverse voices in the animation and live action kids & family space. “Diverse Stories, Authentically Told” is the driving motto and mission behind the company. 

Currently, Lion Forge Entertainment (LFE) is producing and co-financing the highly anticipated animated series “Iyanu,” for Cartoon Network and Max. “Iyanu” is an adaptation of the graphic novel series Iyanu: Child of Wonder created by Roye Okupe and is an epic superhero steeped in Nigerian culture and mythology. Other Lion Forge projects include producing the Academy Award-winning animated short “Hair Love;” Annie and Image Award-nominated “Rise Up, Sing Out” for Disney; Emmy-winning special “The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special”; Children’s & Family Emmy Award-nominated “Rhymes Through Times” short series for Nickelodeon; and Emmy Award-winning short series “Drawn In” in partnership with Nine PBS. LFE recently signed a first look deal with Nickelodeon for animation. The company also has a partnership with Penguin Young Readers to develop animated and live action projects based on selected PYR best-selling books and a strategic alliance with Dentsu to develop projects for global partners and brands.


With a robust slate of live action and animated projects in development, Lion Forge recently formed its own distribution entity to handle foreign sales for LFE and third-party projects, as well as an in-house franchise and consumer products division to build and maximize franchises. Lion Forge Entertainment is one of the companies under parent Polarity, also owned by Steward. Polarity includes Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group, which publishes more than 60 original graphic novels each year and owns a deep library of IP. Polarity also owns Magnetic Press and Illustrated Syndicate. Polarity sits alongside the Steward Family holdings which range from music to NASCAR to the NHL and beyond.Lion Forge Entertainment is represented by Activist Artists Management.

 

About Dark Horse

Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics is an excellent example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and transform a company with humble beginnings into an industry giant. Over the years, Dark Horse has published the work of creative legends such as Yoshitaka Amano, Margaret Atwood, Paul Chadwick, Geof Darrow, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Faith Erin Hicks, Kazuo Koike, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Kentaro Miura, Moebius, Chuck Palahniuk, Wendy Pini, Richard Pini, and Gerard Way. In addition, Dark Horse has a long tradition of establishing exciting new creative talent throughout all of its divisions. The company has also set the industry standard for quality licensed comics, graphic novels, collectibles, and art books, including Stranger Things, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Dragon Age, James Cameron’s Avatar, Game of Thrones, Mass Effect, StarCraft, The Witcher, and Halo. Today, Dark Horse Comics is one of the world’s leading entertainment publishers.

 

About YouNeek Studios

YouNeek Studios is an award-winning multiplatform entertainment company founded by Roye Okupe. Using graphic novels, animation, video games, and other forms of media, YouNeek focuses on telling extraordinary stories about extraordinary characters inspired by African history, culture, and mythology, with the ultimate goal of empowering African creatives and storytelling across the globe. Visit www.youneekstudios.com for more.

 

About Impact X Capital

Impact X Capital is a double bottom line VC, founded to support diverse and underrepresented talent in the digital and technology, media, and entertainment space. The Studio’s aim is to increase diversity and inclusion through development of bold and distinctive storytelling with from African diaspora creatives. Our content moves international audiences from appropriation to appreciation while giving agency to creators of color. The founders include Sir Lenny Henry and Tony winning actor Adrian Leicester; author and TV presenter Eric Collins and Executive Producer Erica Dupuis, a former HBO executive. www.impactxcapital.com.

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