In 1982, Samuel L. Jackson appeared along with playwright Eugene Lee and Denzel Washington as part of the ensemble cast in the original Off-Broadway production of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play A Soldier’s Play. More than 30 years later, Jackson is teaming with Lee again in the screen adaption of Lee’s Pulitzer-nominated play East Texas Hot Links. Jackson is set to co-executive produce the movie while Lee will adapt it for the big screen and serve as the director.
East Texas Hot Links tells the story of a small African American community in 1955 Texas. The play takes place during a single night in the Top o’ the Hill Café, where a “betrayal endangers the lives of the community.” Lee’s play originally premiered in 1991 at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles with Loretta Devine in a starring role. A review of the production at the time noted, “the performances are gripping, honest and filled with humor.”
Casting for East Texas Hot Links is currently underway with John Beasley star of TV Land’s “The Soul Man” in the role of “Boochie Reed.” Beasley also serves as a producer. The movie is scheduled to begin shooting next spring in Los Angeles.
In addition to East Texas Hot Links, Lee has written Fear Itself, Somebody Called: A Tale of Two Preachers, Killingsworth, The Rest of Me, the musical Twist, and Lyin’ Ass. He also has appeared on Broadway in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, and as a company member for the Kennedy Center’s 10-play cycle tribute to Wilson. His television credits include “Good Times,” “The White Shadow,” and “The Women of Brewster Place.” He is currently the Artist in Residence and Artistic Director of the Texas State University Black and Latino Playwright’s Conference.
Jackson has enjoyed a long career on the stage including 1990’s Broadway production of Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. Most recently, he starred alongside Angela Bassett in Katori Hall’s Olivier Award-winning drama The Mountaintop as “Dr. Martin Luther King.”
This Is Who We Would Cast In Disney’s Live-Action “The Lion King”
Earlier this year, amidst the news of a future Lion King live-action film, director Jon Favreau announced via his Instagram that James Earl Jones (Fences, The Great White Hope) will be playing Mufasa and Donald Glover will be playing Simba. This weekend, recent intel was released courtesy of The BeyHive Team that claims Beyonce is in talks to play Nala as well as overseer the entire film soundtrack.
If the rumors are true, that’s already three all-stars on board to make this Lion King movie the best we’ve ever seen; possibly Disney’s best live-action remake to date. In regard to the rest of the principal cast, here is whom we’d love to see in the film:
Scar – Leslie Odom Jr.
Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton): Every great villain is an anti-hero in essence and we know for a fact that Leslie Odom Jr. can play a villain or rather, the misunderstood bad-guy. After winning a Tony last year for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Burr in Hamilton, Odom Jr. has released his debut album, welcomed to the world his baby girl Lucy, and is currently writing his first book, “Failing Up: How to Rise Above, Do Better, and Never Stop Learning.” You can also look forward to seeing Odom Jr. in Murder on the Orient Express, in theaters this winter.
Rafiki – Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple): I think we can all agree, Cynthia Erivo could play any and every role in a live-action Lion King film and it would be amazing! But to play Rafiki in particular- the wise old baboon who has the perfect song for every moment-would be a treat for us. Last year Erivo won a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, for her role as Celie in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple. After The Color Purple closed in January she has filmed Widows opposite Viola Davis and Andre Holland. She will also be starring as Harriet Tubman in the Seth Mann biopic, to be released in 2018.
Timon – Todrick Hall
Todrick Hall (Kinky Boots): It’s hard to think of fan-made Disney content without thinking of Hall’s YouTube page with all of his Disney mashups and music video remakes (“Beauty and the Beat” is a personal favorite). He knows his Disney, and to play the hyperactive fast talking meerkat, Timon would be perfect! Hall recently starred as Lola in Kinky Boots on Broadway and in June, wrapped up his national tour Straight Outta Oz.
Pumbaa – Tituss Burgess
Tituss Burgess (Jersey Boy, The Little Mermaid): Burgess would redefine Pumbaa’s comedic relief giving us that intuitive warthog with a big heart and high tenor. Just imagine the “Hakuna Matata” remix sung by Hall and Burgess with Beyonce’s oversight. Burgess currently stars as The Andromedon in the Netflix Original Series, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He also recently bought the rights to the 1996 comedy The Preacher’s Wife that starred Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington, and is writing the score and music.
Zazu – Daveed Diggs
Daveed Diggs (Hamilton): It’s a pity Zazu, personal advisor to Mufasa, didn’t rap in the original animated film. But, who better to undertake this in the remake than Diggs? Last year, Diggs won a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his dual role as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, and was dubbed the fastest rapper on Broadway rapping 19 words in 3 seconds in Guns and Ships. Since leaving Hamilton, Diggs has a recurring role on Blackish and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He is also starring in the pilot Snowpiercer on TNT while serving as executive producer on The Mayor coming to ABC in the fall.
Michaela Coel Stars in London-based Musical “Been So Long” Film Adaption
Michaela Coel, creator, writer, and star of the BAFTA award-winning Netflix original series, “Chewing Gum”, stars in the London-based musical “Been So Long,” a film adaptation based on the 2009 stage musical by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill.
Coel plays Simone, a young single mother charmed into a magical night in the city by a handsome stranger with a questionable past- played by Arinzé Kene (One Night in Miami). This modern day love story set in London’s “musical hot-bed” of Camden Town promises a soundtrack with a mix of RnB, Nu Soul and UK dance, as well as music from guest producers.
Coel is joined by an all-singing and all-dancing cast that includes George Mackay (“Captain Fantastic“), Ronke Adekoluejo (“Chewing Gum”), Ashley Thomas (“24”), Joe Dempsie (“Game Of Thrones”), Luke Norris (“The Duchess”), Rakie Ayola (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and Mya Lewis (“Olaf’s Quest”). It is Directed by BAFTA award-winner Tinge Krishnan (“Junkhearts”) and produced by the BAFTA-nominated Nadine Marsh-Edwards (“Bhaji on the Beach”) and Amanda Jenks (“The Girl”) of Greenacre Films.
Filming began earlier this year, shortly after season 2 of “Chewing Gum” was released on Netflix, and while she is making waves as a comedienne, Coel admits she is a stranger to musicals. However, Coel is no stranger to the stage and is quite theatrically and musically inclined having performed her one-woman show Chewing Gum Dreams in various theatres across London (2012-2014) before turning it into the hit series we know and love. She also wrote and recorded six of the tracks from season 1 of “Chewing Gum,” including the theme song.
Still, of singing and dancing on screen Coel shares, “It is a big stretch for me…I’ve never done anything like this in my life. It’s either going to be really amazing or just like, ‘What the f–k was that?’” (Screen Daily).
Either way, we’re rooting for her and can’t wait to see her on the big screen.
“Been So Long” made its rounds at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is set for international release in 2018. “Chewing Gum” season 3 is yet to be confirmed.