And more will be coming, if Jakes has his way. He already is moving forward with new TV and film projects, including directing vehicles for Angela Bassett and Regina King; a TV movie about Antoinette Tuff for Sony; and a BET celebration of the 35th anniversary of his ministry. Both he and Roth believe this is a huge untapped market — one that can be reached by Jakes’ 4 million social media followers, but that has to be given the right material. “I want to continue in the film space, independent as well as through Sony and others,” Jakes says. “I want to find unique stories, smart stories that are impactful.”
But I’m obviously interested in what he has cooking, including what’s mentioned above.
The Angela Bassett project is very likely her directorial debut, currently titled Book Of The Year (it was previously called United States, and before that, Erasure) – an adaptation of the popular novel by Percival Everett, titled Erasure.
It’s a project we’ve been tracking since this blog was launched in 2009, 5 long years ago. Whether it’ll eventually see the light of day was always in question, but with the above confirmation (or sorts) from the Hollywood Reporter profile, it’s clearly still very much alive.
It’s been suggested in the past that Erasure, the novel, was a scathing critique of Push, the novel by Sapphire, on which Precious, the movie, was based. Others have argued that it’s actually a critique of Richard Wright’s Native Son. And still there are those who say that it’s a criticism of writers like Terri McMillan and the whole idea of Oprah’s book club.
I’m sure Ms Bassett is aware of all the above conversations being had about the project, as she embarks on adapting the fiery novel, and the debate that will likely accompany the film’s release – whenever it’s made. If anything, marketing this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. The material will be controversial – of course, depending on how Bassett and company are approaching it.
Erasure focuses on Monk Ellison, a prominent black writer – the hyper-literate son of middle-class suburban parents, who writes obscure post-modern novels reinterpreting Greek classics. With his most recent manuscript receiving its 17th rejection from a publisher, frustrated with the publishing industry’s interest in releasing certain kinds of books by black authors (I’m sure you can guess which kinds), Monk, under a pseudonym, writes a parody of the “ghetto-fiction” genre, which he calls Ma Pafology (a title he later changes to simply, Fuck). Fuck is an autobiography told from the perspective of an illiterate black man, and much to his surprise, the book garners lots of critical and commercial acclaim, and soon becomes a possible contender for the National Book Award, leaving Monk in a crisis of conscience – to choose between telling the truth or being famous.
In a sample sequence within Erasure, which some say supports above arguments about the novel’s intent, Monk sees a poster announcing a reading by an author named Juanita Mae Jenkins, described as “author of the runaway bestseller ‘We’s Lives in Da Ghetto’,” a novel that begins: “My fahvre be gone since time I’s borned and it be just me an’ my momma an’ my baby brover Juneboy.”
Also, in another sequence, Monk reads reviews that praise Jenkins’ novel for its “haunting realness;” he watches Jenkins on a talk show whose black female host has chosen the novel for her book club; and more…
Bassett’s film has been “in development” since 2006. A long journey to production. But it’s clearly still alive, and I suppose it’s now a matter of when, and not if, with T.D. Jakes now on-board. And I should mention Courtney B. Vance is also a producer.
As for the Regina King project, it’s very likely the adaptation of Reshonda Tate Billingsley’s novel Let the Church Say Amen, which BET optioned the rights to, in its further push into so-called “faith based” programming.
Regina King will direct (her debut).
The film is about a 20-something Rachel Jackson (played by Naturi Naughton), a wayward preacher’s kid who is struggling to pull her life together. With a six-year-old son out of wedlock and a high school diploma, Rachel’s mission in life is to marry her son’s father in order to become a traditional and respectable family and regain her father’s respect.
Steve Harris, Lela Rochon, Hosea Sanchez and Collins Curtis Pennie all star. The film co-produced by Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone, Roger Bobb and Regina King. T.D. Jakes may have come on-board recently.
The film has actually already been shot, but it has yet to premiere on BET.
And finally, the TV movie on Antoinette Tuff, set up at Sony, which tells the real-life story of the extraordinary human drama Tuff lived through, which grabbed headlines around the world. The bookkeeper, an eight-year veteran of the DeKalb County school district, talked suspect Michael Brandon Hill into surrendering after a brief standoff with police, last summer. Faced with the armed 20-year-old who told her he was off his medication for a mental disorder, Tuff shared stories of heartbreak from her own life to help calm him down.
After that brave incident, Antoinette became a media sensation (and rightfully-so). She even visited with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, met with global business and political leaders to tell her story and share her wisdom on how to use judgment in crisis and not just pass judgment in a heated moment. She also has started a non-profit organization, called Kids on the Move for Success, and has written a book titled Prepared for a Purpose: The Inspiring True Story of How One Woman Saved an Atlanta School Under Siege, which is now available for purchase at your favorite on- or offline bookstore.
No word yet on who, besides Jakes, is involved in the film adaptation of Tuff’s story.
In addition to the films, there is (or will be) a BET talk show pilot starring Jakes, along with a docu-reality series following Detroit’s Sheard Family – multiple generations of gospel music stars, including Bishop J. Drew Sheard, who leads a mega-church in the Motor City: Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God and Christ.
As Jakes states in the Hollywood Reporter piece, there is indeed a fairly large and still not fully tapped market for “faith-based” films and TV series with black characters at the center. Tyler Perry has certainly milked that audience over the years, and Jakes is simply claiming his piece of that fat (or phat) pie.