An unexpected choice; her name wouldn’t have been the first one to come to mind for the role.
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (daughter of Sidney Poitier) has been tapped to play Paul Robeson’s wife, Eslanda (“Essie“) Goode Robeson, opposite former co-star of Showtime’s hit drama series Homeland, British actor David Harewood, who’s attached to star in the biopic.
South African director Darrell Roodt (Winnie) is set to helm what is shaping up to be a multi-continental production, both in front of and behind the camera.
The project comes from Four Stars International, and will be produced by Greg Carter and executive produced by Richard Akel, with a script penned by Akel and Terry Bisson, with promises of a film that’s worthy of its subject.
Also of note, Louis Gossett Jr. will portray W.E.B. Du Bois in the independently-produced film.
Sydney Tamiia Poitier is likely best known for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. Although she’s done lots of TV work as well.
Eslanda (“Essie”) Goode Robeson was an anthropologist, author, actor and activist. She actually died 11 years before Paul Robeson did. She was also an actress, but not nearly as prolific as Paul was.
There aren’t a lot of pictures of her on the web – especially as a younger woman.
The film will be a traditional biopic, showing Robeson’s rise (along with his wife, who was also his business manager) into his 60s, so expect some makeup work here, which almost always worries me. It’s rare that it really, really works well, and is believable.
And given how poorly director Roodt and his team aged Jennifer Hudson in Winnie, I’m even more concerned.
But we’ll just have to wait to see, won’t we?
The goal is to shoot this in August in Toronto and Montreal.
Depending on when the film is released, assuming it’s high-profile enough, it could very well be a film that will find itself in Awards season conversations, for whatever that year is.
I wonder who’ll play Oscar Micheaux, since Robeson made his film acting debut in Micheaux’s Body and Soul (1925).
Given the long life that he lived, the events he lived through, the other historically-significant public figures he knew, interacted and worked with, his on-screen and off-screen accomplishments, his activism that would lead to his black-listing, and so much more, there’s a lot of great history here in this one, single life. And a big screen account of that life is one that’s definitely warranted.
We’re definitely excited to see what develops here.