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Fox Shelves Kasi Lemmons’ ‘Black Nativity;’ Trouble Casting Black Male Lead (Let’s Help Them!)

Fox Shelves Kasi Lemmons' 'Black Nativity;' Trouble Casting Black Male Lead (Let's Help Them!)

Unfortunate news… I know many of you folks were excited when we first reported this.

Fox Searchlight is shelving its planned Kasi Lemmons’ musical Black Nativity, just weeks before it was scheduled to begin production in early October.

Why? The project, which initially had Samuel L. Jackson’s interest, cannot find an actor to play its male lead. THR says that Jackson, as well as Laurence Fishburne, and several other *name* black actors in that age group, all passed on the project.

Strange, isn’t it? The report doesn’t say exactly why all of these actors are passing on the role (although it notes that Samuel’s asking price may have been too much for the film’s reported $10 million budget). It does state that the role needs an actor who can sing, and be believable as the father of Jennifer Hudson (who’s already attached to star in the project).

With that list of criteria – old enough, can sing, and be a recognizable *name* actor willing to work within a $10 million budget – the pool of available actors is a very small one. 

This of course speaks to the practically non-cultivation of black actor/stars in Hollywood. But that’s a topic we’ve beaten to death here on S&A.

Angela Bassett is also attached to star in the film as J-Hud’s mother (would’ve been Samuel’s wife, had he stayed on the project), which is based on Langston Hughes‘ Broadway gospel musical.

The project has actually been in the works since 2009, when we first announced it. The story centers on a young black teen from Baltimore, who is sent to Harlem by his mother to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged grandparents. The boy then learns the real meaning of faith and family when his grandfather delivers a Christmas Eve sermon and “a stylized, dream-sequence retelling of the classic Nativity story.

So the project is shelved indefinitely – unless they can somehow attract the likes of Denzel Washington, or an Eddie Murphy, who are both old enough to play J-Hud’s father, are both *name* black actors, although I can’t vouch for their singing abilities. And they both would be willing to take pay-cuts.

What other actors can you think of who fit the criteria that the role requests?

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TK CARTER the star of HBO'S The Corner. He can act and sing. Great all around actor and singer. He's got chops!!!!!!!! Truly a veteran.


You can't vouch for Eddie's singing abilities? Have you not heard that seminal jam Party All the Time? Google for a treat!


I'll do it.



Russell Hornsby, Jeffrey Wright or James McDaniel come to mind – we need to give them a chance to become a name!


I guess that they will go with a lesser known or unknown actor. I wonder how similar this is to Kenny Leon's "Black Nativity" play that runs every Christmas? I'm with Lovesfilmnmusic. Ben Vereen would be excellent. I also like Accidental Visitor's suggestion of Keith David.


Black Nativity? What is that? Is it anything like "White Nativity". Now hold on, I'm going somewhere. I asked my lady what she invisioned when I mentioned those words (Black Nativity). She tilted her head in a questioning fashion as if I was asking her a trick question, and said, "okay, I'll bite, I see a black baby in a manger." Huuuum, now I'm wondering what others "see" when they hear those words. Well, anyway, I believe it's safe to say the white audience is off the table. They ain't in no hurry to see black folks singing about Christmas. In fact, they are not interested in seeing anything "black", if they don't have to. The Cotton Club closed it's doors years ago. But here's my other point. Although it was reported that Fox Searchlight shelved Kasi Lemmons' musical because (supposedly) they cannot find an actor to play its male lead, I'm thinking otherwise. Maybe they came to their senses and realized they had a dud on their hands. Seriously, think about some of the problems with Sparkle 2012, who is the audience for this stylized, dream-sequence retelling of the classic Nativity story? And like Sparkle, without an A-list black actor, black nativity is running on fumes. Now lets go a little deeper. Excuse me, but who is Kasi Lemmons? I mean, I know who she is but what percentage of the intended audience (whoever they are) has any idea what Ms Lemmons is bringing to the table? So it's safe to say she's not a bankable draw/star. And please, Dennis Haysbert, Ben Vereen, Delroy Lindo, Obba Babatunde and Keith David??? Wow… for starters, we're talkin' an insurance salesman, Chicken George and West Indian Archie. Who are those guys behind those Foster Grants? And who has seen Obba since his Emmy nomination for playing dancing Willie in Miss Evers' Boys (1997)? Heck, we might as well get that old school dancer/singer/actor from those old 7-UP commercials, Geoffrey Holder…. " 7-UP, caffeine, never had it, never will". Black Nativity, never had "IT", never will. But let's go a little deeper. Can an actor's career suffer from being associated with a flop? Well, I'm suggesting that although some folks are laying blame at the feet of our A-listers for being money hounds, couldn't they have simply seen the writing on the wall? Angela Bassett has seen her best days and if J-Hud is not singing, she's NOT acting. Beside, I don't know about you, but I don't know who's interested in hearing the hip-hop version of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". Consequently, I'm left to believe Fox Searchlight woke-up from their dream-sequence and realized 10 million may not be a lot of money, but somebodies ass — and possibly their job — was hanging in the wind. So they pulled up their pants, jacked-up their slacks and ran like a turkey being chased through the corn.


Cheadle could pull it off.

Julius Hollingsworth

I'm not a name actor (lol) . But I can do the job.


Keith David. The guy has worked in the business for a long time, had a major role on Broadway in the musical "Jelly's Last Jam (so we know he can sing), and has a face and voice that is familiar to audiences even if they can't place his name. Unless of course he is one of the actual actors who already turned down the part.


Eddie can sing…and of course there is always the possibility of making Jamie look older. Delroy Lindo is probably the best choice.
If the budget is that low; why not just get a Broadway or off-Broadway actor. How much return do they really want to make? Wouldn't quality bring the profits up?


Delroy Lindo


I just lost some respect for Fishburne and the other "name" black actors who passed on this. Bypass all these money grubbing suckers and cast a popular black, older actress with a deep singing voice and have her play a man. Whoopi could do it. She was convincing in The Associate.

Bohemian princess

Eddie can sing. Remember Dreamgirls. This could be the comeback he needs.


Dennis Haysbert



That Dude

Obba Babatunde

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