I’m excited to exec produce the Aaliyah @lifetimetv movie w/ @DebraMChase. Prod starts later this month and @AlexShipppp will play Aaliyah.
The above tweet is from Wendy Williams who has apparently signed on to executive produce Lifetime’s Aaliyah biopic. As you can see, she also reveals that Alexandra Shipp has been cast in the title role, replacing the exiting Zendaya, who was initially cast to play the late songstress in the project.
It was just 3 weeks ago when the announcement of Zendaya’s casting was made, so exit seemed a bit sudden. The 17-year-old, as I posited, may have also been partly influenced by some of the criticism the project received after her casting was announced; specifically, Aaliyah’s family has been vocal about their opposition to a small screen adaptation for Aaliyah’s story, wanting a feature film made for the big screen instead, with *name* actors.
"We want a major studio release along the lines of ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It,’ the Tina Turner movie… This needs A-list actors, A-list talent that can breathe life into what we think is a phenomenal story," said Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah’s cousin and president of her label, Blackground Records.
Certainly Alexandra Shipp isn’t exactly an A-list actor, is she? So one can only assume that the family still won’t be pleased with this casting announcement.
Also worth noting, the family is outraged because they were not consulted for the film, and they promised to block Lifetime from acquiring any rights to Aaliyah’s songs.
Let’s see whether Aaliyah’s family’s vehement and vocal opposition to the project, as well as backlash from fans of Aaliyah, over the project’s casting, are also of influence on Shipp’s decision to take on the role.
Shipp is most notable for her role as KT Rush on the show "House of Anubis." She has also appeared on "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," "Switched at Birth," and "Victorious." She most recently booked the lead role in the upcoming "Drumline" sequel set up at VH1, "Drumline 2: A New Beat."
Based on the bestseller "Aaliyah: More Than a Woman" by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley, the Lifetime Original Movie is to be filmed this summer to be premiered in the Fall.
Howard Braunstein ("The Informant!") and Debra Martin Chase ("The Princess Diaries," "Sparkle") were serving as executive producers.
Bradley Walsh ("Turn the Beat Around") was to direct from a script written by Michael Elliot ("Brown Sugar").