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Viola Davis Is Developing a Harriet Tubman Biopic for HBO (She Will Star & Produce)

Viola Davis Is Developing a Harriet Tubman Biopic for HBO (She Will Star & Produce)

Viola Davis will star in, produce and exec produce a biopic on the life of Harriet Tubman, for HBO.

The project, in early development, is the 3rd in a line of recently announced Tubman-related projects – including WGN America’s upcoming Underground Railroad-centered series titled “Underground,” and Russell Simmons’ own Tubman project, which he said he was developing, 2 years ago (no word on whether it’s still in the works.

I should mention the 1978 TV miniseries, “A Woman Called Moses,” which was based on the life of Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who helped to organize the Underground Railroad, and who led dozens of African Americans from enslavement in the Southern United States, to freedom in the Northern states, and Canada. Narrated by Orson Welles, the production was broadcast on NBC on December 11 and 12, 1978. Tubman was portrayed by Cicely Tyson.

Generally well-received, it won a WGA award.

Davis’ Tubman film will be based on the 2004 book, “Bound for the Promised Land – Harriet Tubman Portrait: of an American Hero,” by historian Kate Clifford Larson, which draws from a trove of new documents and sources, as well as extensive genealogical research, to paint a portrait of a complex woman and her passionate pursuit of freedom. 

Kirk Ellis (HBO’s “John Adams” miniseries) is scripting the adaptation, with Doug Ellin (“Entourage”) and his Halyard Park production company executive-producing, alongside Amblin TV, Cliff Dorfman (“Entourage”), as well as Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, via their JuVee production shingle.

Davis plans to shoot the film while on break from ABC’s hit drama series “How to get Away with Murder,” some time next year.

HBO also has a Bessie Smith biopic on its slate, which premieres early next month, with Queen Latifah in the title role, directed by Dee Rees.

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