the woman king – marketing recap

How Sony has sold a period drama about African warriors.

the woman king poster from Sony Pictures
the woman king poster from Sony Pictures

Viola Davis stars in this week’s The Woman King, in theaters this week from Sony Pictures. Davis plays General Nanisca, the leader of the Agojie, an all-female group of guardian warriors in the kingdom of Dahomey. Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim costar as the latest generation of warriors to be trained by Nanisca, with John Boyega as the nation’s king. The Agojie must be trained to help fight against the latest threat to their people: The expansion of French colonizers deeper into the African continent.

If the concept of the Agojie sounds familiar, it’s because the real life defenders were the inspiration for the Dora Milaje in Christopher Priest’s “Black Panther” comics run, a group that of course later appeared in several installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the movie was written by Dana Stevens, who developed the story with producer Maria Bello. Let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced in July, 2020 as Prince-Blythwood’s follow-up to the massively successful The Old Guard on Netflix.

News of Davis’ casting was followed in September 2021 by Boyega joining the project. Lynch was cast shortly after that, right in the middle of her getting rave reviews for her role in No Time To Die. Lawson, Tiffen and others joined shortly after that.

the marketing campaign

Davis offered the first real look at the film in February of this year when she posted a couple stills showing just how fierce she looks in costume.

Both Prince-Blythwood and Davis made an appearance on stage at Sony’s April 2022 CinemaCon presentation to promote their film. Davis was also given the event’s first-ever Trailblazer Award for her body of work.

A few weeks later Empire Magazine shared a first look still from the film.

Prince-Blythewood talked about the movie when she appeared at the American Black Film Festival in June, with the director debuting the trailer there for the festival’s audience before it went out to the general public.

More photos along with an interview with Davis came in Vanity Fair at the beginning of July.

Also in early July came the first trailer (10.4m YouTube views), which opens with King Ghezo warning of a new evil coming that must be fought with the Agojie. Nanisca convinces the king to fight back against the threat of the Europeans looking to expand their influence. We see the kind of training the Agojie go through and just how effective they are in combat, all of it adding up to a powerful trailer.

Banner ads on YouTube drove people to the film’s official website when the trailer debuted.

the woman king YouTube ad
the woman king YouTube ad

Later that month the announcement came that the movie’s world premiere would happen at the Toronto International Film Festival. Davis was later slated for a conversation as part of the film’s screening at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in mid-August.

The first poster came out a bit later. It shows Nansica alone with her weapon held high, standing in what seems to be a fiery conflagration blazing all around her.

Bello was interviewed about her love of the African continent and how that played into developing this story.

A short vignette has Davis and Prince-Bythewood talking about the real life warriors portrayed in the film and how they’re surprised they didn’t know more about this before.

Trainer Gabriela Mclain spoke in this interview about how she put each one of the primary cast through their paces in preparation for such physically-demanding roles that required they *look* the part of fearsome warriors.

That training was the subject of another short featurette.

Mbedu was interviewed about the film’s incredible cast and more.

Cutdowns of the trailer started running in late August as TV spots and online promos, including pre-roll ads.

The second poster, released at the end of August, has the entire main cast of characters assembled and staring intensely at the audience amidst the same fiery background seen earlier.

An Essence cover story featured a conversation with the main cast about the story and what it was like working with everyone else. That was followed by a THR cover story with Prince-Bythewood and Davis in part covering the battles they had to take part in just to get the film made for reasons that are likely obvious.

An interview with Lynch focused again on the rigorous training she had to take part in.

Fandango debuted an exclusive clip of Nanisca pushing the warriors she’s training to be better than they ever thought they could be in order to defend their nation.

The bonding the cast underwent during filming was the subject of another short vignette.

That lead into the TIFF premiere screening, which garnered *very* positive reviews and buzz, and the Q&A with the cast and crew that went along with it.

Costume designer Gersha Phillips shared the real life inspiration that went into the costumes along with the fact they were made by actual African artisans.

Another TV spot from the last week featured football coach Jennifer King offering her thoughts on being a warrior along with clips from the film.

Boyega and Atim created Spotify playlists inspired by the film and their characters.

Davis went on to make appearances on “GMA”, “The Tonight Show”, “The View” along with others to promote the film and talk about how unique the story is in today’s marketplace.


It’s not very surprising that there’s little in the way of overt reference to how the real life Agojie inspired the fictional Dora Milaje given the competing studios/companies in play. But that connection is very much there for anyone who’s paying attention.

Outside of that, the major message of the campaign is not only that this is a powerful film about an incredible group of warriors but that the existence of those warriors isn’t as well known in the general public as, say, the 300 Spartan warriors at the Battle of Thermopylae. If you pull on that thread more than a bit you’ll likely discover reasons that include racism, the fact that Europeans are clearly not the good guys in that story and so on.

But the story is being told in a big, bold fashion now and that’s what’s important. And the campaign has been moving, driven by the personal investment of Prince-Bythewood, Davis and others, including Bello, who seems to have taken the smart path and sat out most of the publicity and let others, particularly women of color, take the spotlight.

The Old Guard – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling its latest sci-fi action film.

The Old Guard, based on the graphic novel of the same name, star Charlize Theron as Andy, the leader of a group of mercenaries who have a particular advantage: They’re immortal. She and her team have been fighting on one side or another for centuries to protect humanity from massive threats it is largely unaware of.

At the same time new recruit Nile (Kiki Layne) joins the team they take on a job that winds up potentially exposing their existence to the world as a whole. That leads mysterious forces to seek them out in the hopes of harnessing their immortal abilities for profit, something Andy and the others are keen to avoid.

Netflix has been selling the film, written by Greg Rucka (who also wrote the original graphic novel) and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, as a less violent and more interesting option than its recent uber-graphic Extraction. Reviews so far have been largely positive but it sports only a 67 percent “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Posters

Andy, her team and other supporting characters are arranged on the poster, released in mid-May (by marketing agency BOND), around a symbol or insignia that likely has significant meaning within the context of the story. The tagline “Forever is harder than it looks” hints nicely at the fact that the main characters are immortal while the guns and swords most are brandishing makes it clear they’re involved in some violent business.

A series of character images came out that use the same grey background and offer closeups of Andy, Nile and the others along with their birthdays, some of which go all the way back to BCE. That’s kind of a cool way to show off how old the characters are, adding another bit of information for the audience to latch onto.

The Trailers

The first trailer (3.3 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-May, introducing us to Andy and her team of seemingly immortal mercenaries. They’ve been in the shadows, fighting to protect the world for centuries and have a new recruit being trained. Someone has discovered their existence and is attempting to capture them in hopes of unlocking what makes them so special and profiting off it, something the team is keen to stop from happening. It’s a solid action flick being sold, with just enough of a mystery to keep things interesting.

Andy is in the midst of recruiting Nile in the second trailer (300,000 views on YouTube), released just last week. Nile meets the rest of the team and is welcomed into the world of immortals. Again we’re shown that they’re now on the radar of Copley, (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who wants to take them apart and see what makes them tick.

Online and Social

Nothing here, just a small amount of support on Netflix’s brand social channels.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The project was picked up by Netflix in late February, 2019.

One of the movie’s key action sequences was shared in a clip released in June.

Media and Publicity

Theron was interviewed about the movie in May, with her comments appearing along with a number of first-look stills to give audiences a sense of the movie’s style.

Both Layne and Theron were quoted about the movie and their characters in this interview that included another new look at the film.

Topics ranging from the movie to how she and her family were handling quarantine were covered when Theron appeared on “Today” and other shows. Another interview with her allowed her to talk even more about her character and how it fits into the actress’ other recent roles.


It might be hard to separate this from the dozens of other Netflix originals that have played in the science fiction or fantasy worlds, but this looks a cut above most of them. That’s not just due to the cast but also the production value, which appears to be a bit higher than what some others have sported.

The biggest draw here for many will be Theron’s once more stepping into an action role, something she’s been steadily doing and increasingly popular in. She’s turned, over the years, into a reliable action star capable of being both charming and deadly on-screen. With a concept that is pretty clearly explained in the campaign and lots of mysteries to be answered in the process, this looks like a fun and entertaining ride for people to check out.

Picking Up The Spare

Editor Terilyn Shropshire talks about collaborating with Prince-Bythewood and crafting the movie’s rhythm. Shropshire was also part of this joint interview with Prince-Bythewood. 

Theron was featured on the cover of EW in a photo shoot she produced herself in quarantine. In another interview she commented on how she’s carved out her own path in Hollywood without worrying about franchises and other things. 

How Layne trained for the action sequences in the film was covered in an interview with the actress. She also talked about how many black female heroes there are, even if there aren’t many in most media. 

Ejiofor commented on how he prepped for the role and what he thought of the story. 

A couple new featurettes have come out, one that focused on the translation fo the story from comics to film and one on the combat training the actors underwent. Another dove into the history of the characters while another talked about creating the immortals on screen. 

Prince-Bythewood got a substantial profile on her status as the first black female director to helm a major comic book adaptation. Further interviews with Layne on her own and Layne with Theron together talked more about various topics. 

Lots more interviews with Prince-Bythewood where she talked about casting Layne, what ideas there are for a sequel, how she avoided the over-played female catfight, what circumstances led to her having conversations with Skydance and the similarities between shooting action and love scenes. 

Theron appeared remotely on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie as well as the social issues she’s actively involved with. She later shared some funny stories on “Late Night” while Layne made an appearance on that show a bit later. 

Additional featurettes shared interesting facts (and one lie) about the historical details in the movie, had the cast and crew talking about the story, the challenges of the characters’ immortality

The topic of a sequel as well as the movie’s immediate popularity were covered by Theron in this interview. Priince-Bythewood got another profile where she talked about how she’s created her own career. 

It later came out that the movie’s post-production team was made up of up to 85 percent women, an unusually high number for most films.

More from Prince-Blythewood here about the importance of a compelling story amidst all the action.