Offices can be a scary place ― especially this one.

“The Other Black Girl,” a new Hulu series (now streaming) based on the 2021 suspense novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris, centers on editorial assistant Nella Rogers (Sinclair Daniel), who has high hopes for advancing her career at prestigious publisher Wagner Books.

Nella Rogers (Sinclair Daniel) wishes she wasn't the only Black woman in her office in the new Hulu series,

Right now, though, Nella is tired of being the only Black woman in the office, tired of daily microaggressions, of code-switching, of feeling like she’s being overlooked and undervalued.

So when new editorial assistant Hazel-May McCall (Ashleigh Murray) — classy, cultured, confident and unapologetically Black — is seated next to her cubicle, Nella is beyond excited to get to know “the other Black girl.”

As the two women begin working together, Hazel’s star rises and Nella has a series of major setbacks. But are these just unlucky days, or is something more sinister happening?

Hazel (Ashleigh Murray) and Nella (Sinclair Daniel) in a scene from the new Hulu series,

Here’s how the show departs from the novel (warning: spoilers ahead.)

When and where does ‘The Other Black Girl’ take place?

While the setting — New York City and the fictional Wagner Books office — remains the same, the timeline moves up a bit.

Nella and Hazel meet in 2018 in the novel, but the TV show bumps their introduction to a post-pandemic 2023, arguably a completely different world than the one we were living in a mere five years ago.

“When I was writing the book in 2019, I was thinking about Michael Brown, I was thinking about Philando Castillo, I was thinking about different people,” says Harris, 31, who co-wrote the premiere episode and serves as executive producer for the series with Rashida Jones. “And so to then find ourselves in 2020 and having those conversations again, we just knew that this world and the show would have to be different, because there wasn’t just awareness from Black and brown people.”

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The change adds refinement to the conversations through the halls and cubicles of Wagner, to the showy but thin workplace word salad about diversity and inclusivity, sensitivity reads or allies.

“We had to make decisions on when to pull back on the kind of microaggressions that maybe feel a little more obvious and be more nuanced,” Harris says. “We wanted this to feel relevant and feel very much of the moment and acknowledge that there had been these conversations explicitly and that still hasn’t made it any better, necessarily, for Nella.”

How Nella, her coworkers and friends differ from the novel

Nella’s boss Vera Parini (Bellamy Young) and the publisher’s CEO, Richard Wagner (Eric McCormack), are largely unchanged from book to screen.

A scene from the new Hulu series,

“In the writers’ room, we had very frank conversations about how to go about writing these white characters,” says Harris. “I think a lot of us are experiencing fatigue in terms of like, ‘white wokeness’ or ‘Karens.’ These things are no longer surprising. I just don’t necessarily find it entertaining when it’s not nuanced these days.”

Office “floater” Sophie (Kate Owens) becomes even more eager to prove she’s an ally and befriend Nella, bombarding her with uncomfortable questions and unsolicited think pieces on race.

“Sophie in the book is less charming than in the show, or at least she’s definitely less funny. In a couple of screenings, Sophie’s lines have gotten so much love, which makes me so happy.,” Harris says.

Hazel is a little less black and white in the show than in the novel (no pun intended), which almost makes what goes down between Hazel and Nella worse and more complicated — in a good way.

Outside of Wagner, Nella’s best friend Malaika (Brittany Adebumola) is just as outspoken and protective of her friend, but she, and Nella’s white boyfriend Owen (Hunter Parrish) — a more sensitive do-gooder here than the mildly entitled boyfriend he is in the book — provide more of a supportive bubble for Nella, teaming up to check on her.

Nella's best friend Malaika (Brittany Adebumola) and boyfriend Owen (Hunter Parrish) in a scene from the Hulu series

“I didn’t want to necessarily focus on (Owen) or establishing him as much (in the book). I really did want it to be about the Black woman,” Harris says. But in the show, “we don’t want him to fall into that (role of) trophy white partner. And same with Malaika. We didn’t want her to fall into the (role of) trophy Black best friends. We wanted them to feel real and have their own storylines and expand on them, because also they’re just so good, (actors) Hunter and Brittany are so good together.”

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As for Nella, her layers are on sharp display. She may have come from a mostly white neighborhood, attended majority white schools and have a white boyfriend, but that doesn’t negate her Blackness or how important Black voices and culture are to her. We don’t often get this sort of main character, especially on television, without it being a joke or at the expense of their Blackness.

“Writing from this voice for Nella was so important to me, but I was also a little nervous at first,” says Harris, who also grew up in a mostly white community in Connecticut. “I thought, ‘Are people going to actually like her?’ But it just felt so real to me, and the past few years I’ve met so many other Black women who identify with her and have similar backgrounds to me. And it’s been really cool to hear that. I think as a younger person, I needed more of that.”

There’s more backstory for crucial characters

The novel and the opening moments of the first episode begin the same way, with a flashback more than 30 years before on a subway in Manhattan, and in the middle of a mystery involving Wagner Books.

One of Nella’s biggest disappointments at work is that Wagner was the publisher of her favorite book, written by a Black woman, Diana Gordon (Garcelle Beauvais), whose best friend was also the first and only Black editor at Wagner.

Not much has been heard from that editor — Kendra Rae Phillips (Cassi Maddox) — since the book’s release in the 1980s, but Gordon is open to returning to write a new one.

Nella was deeply inspired by Gordon’s book, and Phillips’ career is what convinced her to go into publishing in the first place.

Diana Gordon (Garcelle Beauvais) in a scene from the new Hulu series,

While both the novel and Hulu series use flashbacks to a younger Diana and Kendra, the show builds on these characters, offering more of their friendship, their goals and the fractures of what would later crack their relationship.

Nella meets her hero

Nella gets to meet an older Diana Gordon in the Hulu series — a departure from the book — and the two women form a bond.

“I was imagining what it’s like to meet your heroes,” Harris says. “I think it’s something that everyone experiences in their lives at some point for the better, for the worse. It was very fun to get to explore what she would look like in present day and even more fun that we got Garcelle (Beauvais), because she’s just phenomenal.”

A scene from the new Hulu series,

What about ‘The Other Black Girl’ ending?

The show doesn’t end where the book does. The novel’s pivotal climax with Nella, Hazel and Hazel’s friends at the hair party comes in the seventh episode, and it takes an unexpected turn.

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Skip ahead if you haven’t seen the final two episodes: Kendra is alive. That’s not very surprising. But, second, in a much more terrifying twist, Diana is the mastermind behind the plot to brainwash these Black women, under the guise of helping them be successful in a white world and achieve their goals — whether they want to or not. Richard Wagner is involved, too, but it’s bigger than that. And Nella might just be the person to lead the resistance against them.

What’s next?

It’s unclear what’s next for the show. The final episode leaves things in a satisfying place, though also with a bit of a cliffhanger. “A lot of us hope it’s not the end,” Harris says. “We see a chance to explore all the ways that the story can just grow and become scarier and funnier.”

As for Harris herself? “I’m working on my next book. And it’s going to be another horror novel that’s about Black people.”