Aunjanue Ellis to Lead Ava DuVernay’s ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ Adaptation

The "King Richard" Oscar nominee will star in writer-director DuVernay's adaptation of the best-selling nonfiction book.
Aunjanue Ellis
Aunjanue Ellis
Courtesy of ARRAY

Ava DuVernay has officially cast the leading role for her adaptation of the bestselling nonfiction book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” on which production is currently underway.

The writer-director is adapting Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson’s book with Academy Award-nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) in the lead. Per an official synopsis, “Caste” examines the little-known system of hierarchy that has shaped America. In describing the thesis of the book when the film was first announced two years ago, Wilkerson said, “What some people call racism could be seen as merely one manifestation of the degree to which we have internalized the larger American caste system.”

The film began production in December in Georgia, with additional filming taking place in Germany and India. Principal photography is underway.

New York Times book critic Dwight Garner called Wilkerson’s work “an extraordinary document, one that strikes me as an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.”

In addition to writing and directing, DuVernay is also producing alongside frequent collaborator Paul Garnes (“Selma”) of ARRAY Filmworks. The project is financed by J4A. The film was first announced in 2020.

Ellis was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2022 for her role in “King Richard.” She also recently wrapped the Warner Bros. musical feature “The Color Purple,” Fox Searchlight’s “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat,” and Orion’s “The Nickel Boys.” In addition to her Oscar nomination, Ellis was Emmy-nominated for her turn in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and DuVernay’s Netflix series “When They See Us.”

DuVernay has an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature for “13th” as well as two Primetime Emmy Awards for the film, released by Netflix in 2016.

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