Viola Davis as Nanisca in The Woman King

Everything We Know About ‘The Woman King’: Release Date, Trailer, Cast & More!

A historical epic, featuring Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis as a warrior, The Woman King, is set to hit theaters later this year. And it is shaping up to be an exciting film, based on the true story of the Dahomey Amazons. The Dahomey Amazons were an all-female military regiment that existed in the Kingdom of Dahomey until 1904. Davis will be starring in the film as the leader of the regiment, General Nanisca. Thuso Mbedu will be starring alongside her as Nawi, an ambitious new recruit.

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The idea for The Woman King dates back to 2015 at the Women Making History Award ceremony. American producer, Mario Bello, was presenting an award to Davis. She took the opportunity to pitch her idea about The Woman King and the crowd instantly went wild at the idea of Davis leading a historical epic. Over the years, Bello developed her idea into a full-fledged film and began forming the ensemble cast in 2018, with Davis being one of the first to sign on.

Meanwhile, Davis is not taking her role as a military general lightly. Beginning in 2020, she started sharing snippets of her workout routine as she prepared for the role of Nanisca. Instagram photos showed her kickboxing and doing sit-ups with medicine balls. In 2022, she shared that she trained four hours a day, five days a week for her role. Here’s what we know so far about this historical epic that will see Davis in the role of a real-life female warrior.

The Woman King release date

The Woman King is already set to hit theaters on September 16, 2022. This Sony Pictures film is slated to have an exclusive theatrical release. So, it will likely not hit any streaming service until it has enjoyed several months at the movie theater.

The Woman King trailer

Sony released the official trailer for The Woman King on July 6, 2022. The trailer gives us an incredible look at these badass female warriors. In the course of 2-minutes, we see an African nation, the Dahomey Kingdom, under the threat of being conquered by a ruthless enemy. However, the Dahomey Kingdom has a secret weapon their enemies will never see coming—their female warriors. The trailer sees these women participating in grueling training routines and bearing their role as warriors with immense honor. Meanwhile, the stakes are high—as the women ominously warn that either they fight, or they die. Check out the trailer below:

The Woman King cast

Viola Davis as Annalise Keating on ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder" (Photo credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth)
(ABC)

Oscar-winning actress, Davis, leads the star-studded cast of The Woman King with her role as General Nanisca. There was a real-life Nanisca who was recruited to the Dahomey Amazons as a teenager. In 1889, she was observed making her first kill as she obtained her place in the regiment. It seems Davis’ character is inspired by her, though we don’t know if the real-life Nanisca ever became a general. Joining her is Thusa Mbedu, as the newest and most ambitious recruit to the Dahomey Amazons, Nawi. Nawi was a real-life Dahomey Amazon woman and was believed to be the last survivor of the group before her passing in 1979.

John Boyega is starring as King Ghezo, the real-life King of Dahomey who reigned from 1818 to 1859 after replacing his brother through a military coup. Hero Fiennes Tiffin, the nephew of actor Ralph Fiennes, is starring in the film as Santo Ferreira. His role as Ferreira appears to be a villainous one as he portrays a colonial overlord.

Shiela Atim stars as a character named Amenza, who is seen leading the group alongside Nanisca as a high-ranking lieutenant. Adrienne Warren will have a supporting role as a character named Ode. Lashana Lynch has been cast in an undisclosed role. Also joining the cast are: Jayme Lawson, Masali Baduza, Angélique Kidjo, Jimmy Odukoya, Thando Dlomo, Jordan Bolger, Zozibini Tuniz, Makgotso M, and Siv Ngesi.

The Woman King plot

Viola Davis as General Nanisca in The Woman King
(Sony)

The Woman King takes place in the late 1800s in Dahomey Kingdom, which was located in what is now modern-day Benin. Dahomey Kingdom is under threat from a ruthless enemy, who seeks to conquer them, along with all of Africa if they aren’t stopped. Hence, Ghezo employs his secret weapon—the Dahomey Amazons. This fierce, all-female regiment is led by General Nanisca. The film will involve Nanisca training the next generation of Dahomey Amazons, including a new recruit, Nawi. Then it appears we’ll see the Dahomey Amazons fighting the enemies who violated their honor, enslaved their people, and threatened to destroy their entire community. They are truly Dahomey Kingdom’s last hope and must fight, lest they die.

The true story behind The Woman King

As said above, The Woman King is based on real-life events. The Dahomey Amazons existed from 1600 all the way through to 1904. Their name was coined by Western historians who compared them to the mystical Amazons of Greek mythology. They most likely formed because Dahomey’s warring with other nations and loss of enslaved men to the Oyo Empire took a heavy toll on the Kingdom’s male population. The Amazons originally started out as a corps of elephant hunters in the 1600s. By the 1700s, though, they were a powerful group of female warriors who helped defeat the neighboring kingdom of Savi.

However, it was King Ghezo who truly militarized the group. He put more money into the group, established formal training and recruitment procedures, and gave them official uniforms. By the mid-19th century, their ranks numbered over 1,000. Many of the women joined the group voluntarily, but others were involuntarily recruited, such as foreign captives. The training the women underwent was quite brutal, as they were taught survivor skills and to be indifferent to pain and death.

While Westerners called them Amazons, the women typically referred to themselves as ahosi —”king’s wives”—or Mino—”our mothers.” They remained as Dahomey’s military regiment until 1904, when they were disbanded after the kingdom became a French protectorate.

What to expect from The Woman King

The Woman King certainly isn’t the first time the Dahomey Amazons have been referenced in pop culture. Most recently, they inspired the Dora Milaje in the 2018 film, Black Panther. The Dora Milaje are an elite group of all-female warriors modeled after the Amazons.

Meanwhile, we hope the film will be a proper embodiment of the history of the Dahomey Amazons. While they are frequently referenced and used for inspiration, their history as a whole isn’t very well known. The Woman King will tap into their legacy, likely providing a raw, visceral, and historical take on them.

(featured image: Sony)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.