Another historical drama centered on the lives of black people – this one set in Jim Crow south.
Per Deadline, Lionsgate has acquired screen rights to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Devil In The Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, And The Dawn Of A New America, by Gilbert King.
Adam Cooper & Bill Collage have been brought on to write the script adaptation, with Allison Shearmur producing.
Set in 1949, with Florida’s booming orange industry as a backdrop, as citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor, the novel tells the all-too-familiar story of four young black men falsely accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl, and the NAACP’s legal team’s attempts to free them.
It was a case that would bring a 40-something-year-old attorney by the name of Thurgood Marshall, into the deadly fray, as his associates thought it was suicidal for him to get involved in this case, at a time when he was considered irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement. Although Marshall wasn’t one to back down from a fight – certainly not after the Ku Klux Klan murdered one of his NAACP associates involved with the case, and Marshall himself endured numerous death threats.
The 4 young black men came to be known as “The Groveland Boys.”
Deadline says that the project is a “high priority” at Lionsgate, so expect this to be packaged and ready to roll soon.
Obviously, this will present several opportunities for black actors – most especially, what actor will be cast to play Thurgood Marshall. It could be the kind of role that draws critical attention, and awards season consideration.
Again, Marshall was in his 40s when the story takes place – 41 to be exact. So, we’re looking for a black actor who can embody him at that age, on screen. Any recommendations for Lionsgate execs?
Recent actors who’ve played Marshall include Laurence Fishburne, who returned to the stage in 2008 to star in the Broadway production of Thurgood. HBO aired a filmed version of the The 90-minute play in 2011.
And more recently, Danny Glover plays Thurgood Marshall in Stephen Frears’ upcoming Muhammad Ali film for HBO.
But the name that immediately came to mind for me, was Jeffrey Wright. Or an *unknown*, which I think I’d actually prefer.