I believe this is the 3rd announced project that she’s developing via her recently-formed (with her husband) JuVee production company…
This time Viola Davis will tackle the life story of Barbara Jordan to be based on the 2000 biography Barbara Jordan: American Hero, written by Mary Beth Rogers.
Paris Barclay will direct from a script adapted by Emmy-nominated writer Paris Qualles (primarily written for TV).
A little about Barbara Jordan… she was the first African American to serve in the Texas Senate since Reconstruction, the first black woman elected to Congress from the South, and the first to deliver the keynote address at a national party convention.
But, given how private a life she led, Jordan was considered something of a mystery, even to her close friends – friends who didn’t know about the illness that would eventually kill her at just 59 years old.
From Publisher’s weekly about the Mary Beth Rogers’ biography of Jordan:
In Barbara Jordan, Mary Beth Rogers deftly explores the forces that shaped the moral character and quiet dignity of this extraordinary woman. She reveals the seeds of Jordan’s trademark stoicism while recapturing the essence of a black woman entering politics just as the civil rights movement exploded across the nation. Celebrating Jordan’s elegance, passion, and patriotism, this illuminating portrayal gives new depth to our understanding of one of the most influential women of our time-a woman whose powerful convictions and flair for oratorical drama changed the political landscape of America’s twentieth century.
And while she never publicly discussed her sexual orientation (not that she had to), Jordan’s obituary mentioned her long-term (30-year) relationship with Nancy Earl, an educational psychologist.
Then project has apparently been in the works for “a few years” says Variety, as Davis and Barclay are said to have been looking for a project to work on together since Davis starred in Barclay’s CBS medical drama City of Angels in 2000. And it looks like they’ve finally found it.
“We’re hoping this becomes a movie that shows the world everything that Viola can do. People haven’t seen everything that she’s capable of, and this role is so powerful,” said Barclay.
As Variety also states, initial funding for development of the project has been provided by Chicago real estate developer David “Buzz“ Ruttenberg. Qualles is getting to work on the script, and, once it’s completed, the producers will shop it around for distribution.
As Barclay said, this should be quite a role for Viola to flex the range of her abilities; ain’t no Aibeleen here.
Just watch the real Barbara Jordan in the below clip – giving the 1976 DNC Keynote Address: