We Asked for Your Recommendations on Who Should Play Angela Davis and Here Are the Results...

April 20th 2017
Angela Davis Angela Davis UPDATE 4/9: IF YOU'RE READING THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME, I ADVISE THAT YOU SKIP PAST THE LIST, SCROLL DOWN AND FIRST READ THE ORIGINAL POST BELOW THE LIST TO CATCH UP ON WHAT WE'RE DOING HERE. OTHERWISE, CARRY ON!
Just over 3 weeks after I asked for your recommendations on actresses who should play Angela Davis in the 2 separate films on her life that are currently in development, I've compiled all the replies received in response to the call to play armchair casting directors (in the comment section below, on Facebook, and on Twitter), and these are the final results. NOTE: As I said in the original piece, we're assuming that both films are likely going to cover Davis' life between the late 1960s to the early 1970s - maybe her most publicly active years as a prominent activist who was seen as a threat to the establishment, her relations with the Black Panther Party, her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, her arrest, trial, acquittal, etc. Although nothing has been confirmed yet on either project. However, I'd find it hard to believe that any film on Angela Davis wouldn't touch on that period of her life, when she was in the 25 to 35 age range (she was born in 1944). I should also note that Angela Davis is tall, likely around 5ft 10 or so; something you should've had in mind when making your casting recommendations! But based on your suggestions, it appears some of you didn't consider that (nor the age range each film will likely focus on). But I included all of your responses anyway. The actresses you recommended are listed below in order of "most votes" starting with the actress that received the most votes (+/- .5%); it's a close competition for the top spot as you can see: 1 - Amirah Vann - 12% 2 - An *unknown* actress - 11% 3 - Thandie Newton - 9% 4 - Tessa Thompson - 5% 5 - Janelle Monae, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Jurnee Smollett and Zazie Beetz - 4% each 6 - Alicia Keyes - 3% 7 - Sonequa Martin Green, Gina Torres, Traci Ellis Ross, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson - about 2% each 8 - Latarsha Rose, Letoya Luckett, Erykah Badu, Amandla Stenberg, Carmen Ejogo, Rashida Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Terry Pheto, Naomie Harris, Kali Hawk, Regina King, Zendaya, Tawny Cypress, Antonique Smith, Rachael True, Sophie Okonedo, Susan Kelechi Watson, Joy Bryant, Yaya DaCosta, Teyonah Parris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Rosario Dawson, Sanaa Lathan, Ruth Negga, Kiersey Clemons, Megan Good, Danielle Moné Truitt, Jennifer Hudson, Amanda Seales, Lyndie Greenwood, Kimberley Elise, Rutina Wesley (and a few others) - roughly 1% each. That's it! I likely missed a vote here and there for names that aren't on this list, especially those that came through Twitter; but not enough to change the above outcome - especially the top 3. So now let's wait and see if any of the above suggestions becomes a reality. Below you'll find my initial article on the Angela Davis projects in question, and who I think should play her on screen.
For almost as long as this blog has existed, there has been talk or rumor of a number of different scripted feature films on the life of Angela Davis. A couple of highlights include Halle Berry's January 2011 interview in an issue of Jet magazine that month, during which she first voiced her interest in exploring the life of Angela Davis on screen in a scripted film: “I’ll probably never get to play it in my life and I am going to be sad until the day I die, but I really want to play Angela Davis badly. So badly. I just think she’s fascinating and I think I would love to tell a story from her perspective about that time in our history, and what it was all about with the black panthers.“ The kicked off rumors that Berry might be developing an Angela Davis project. And she only helped fuel those rumors, when she continued to mention her strong interest in an Angela Davis film for a few years after that, telling In Style magazine in 2012: "Her story is so fascinating. I would love to bring it to the screen. I would pick her brain to have a better understanding of her affiliation with the Black Panthers and that period from the 1960s." Obviously nothing ever came of all the chatter and rumor. Right around the same period, another highlight came when French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb announced plans for an Angela Davis biopic for which he was rumored to be courting Beyonce to star. It also never happened. Most recently, in May of 2016, an unauthorized Angela Davis film was put into development - a scripted feature film; not a documentary. Writer LaToya Morgan ("Shameless," "Turn: Washington’s Spies") sold an Angela Davis script to film production company The Firm. But no other details on the project have been made public since last spring's announcement; certainly no word on casting, director, or ETA. And finally, there's an authorized Angela Davis biopic in the works from Lionsgate/Codeblack Films, who acquired the movie rights to “Angela Davis: An Autobiography,” with plans to develop and produce an authorized Angela Davis biopic, which will be produced by Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station,” “Dope” and more), and executive produced by Forest Whitaker. Sidra Smith, a producer on the 2012 documentary “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” and Codeblack CEO Jeff Clanagan are also serving as producers on the project. Angela Davis herself will be involved in the film's making, serving as executive producer along with her niece Eisa Davis, who is also penning the script. So there are at least 2 Angela Davis films (that we currently know of) to watch for, although each may tackle the subject differently. Also one is authorized and the other is not. No word on casting for either film; it may be too early to discuss that, but we'd assume the search has begun in each case. And if you don't mind indulging us for a post, let's see if we can help producers and casting directors of both films, find their lead actresses. Who would you cast to play a young Angela Davis? It's a question I've been mauling over since yesterday's announcement that Forest Whitaker had boarded the authorized biopic on Davis as executive producer. Neither of the above names (Halle Berry and Beyonce) from past potential films are right for the part in my not-so humble opinion. And, to be frank, I can't think of a single *known* or *name* black actress that I'd cast in the role, if I were the casting director on either project. Let me be clear and say that this isn't a knock on any working actress, or their talent; but I just can't *see* any of *name* or *known* actress playing Angela Davis on screen - whether when she was younger (her most publicly active years as a prominent activist and radical in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with close relations to the Black Panther Party, and her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement - her arrest, trial, acquittal, etc), and as she's aged (from the 1980s to the present, devoting most of her time to Academia, although she's still remained politically active, giving speeches and lectures around the country on topical issues). I could certainly be convinced otherwise, especially if I see an audition tape by any of these actresses that's forces me to change my mind. But given the information I have to base my position on, if I were a producer or casting director, none of them would be on my short list to start. So who would be on that coveted short list of actresses? Well, I don't know. Because, as I already said, frankly, I can't think of a single *known* or *name* black actress that I'd cast in the role (without having auditioned them, I should be clear). So what I would do as a casting director or producer on either film, is look beyond the expected, and likely hold a nationwide (or even international) casting call, and do the necessary work to ensure that I find an actress who's absolutely right for the part. Who knows - she may end up being one of a handful of *name* or *known* black actresses. But I wouldn't limit my options from the start by only considering *name* or *known* talent. The world is full of *unknown* actresses who are just waiting for an opportunity like this to present themselves and showcase their talent, and I would see as many of them as possible to find that needle in a haystack, or even that diamond in the rough, so to speak. But, as I said, let's see if we can assist the casting directors and producers of both films in coming up with a short list of actresses to consider. So chime in below. In addition, if you're an actress and you believe you are right for the part, introduce yourself; maybe post a link to a video audition of yourself performing Angela Davis; or your reel; or headshots; or some other useful visual aid. After all, you never know who's reading and watching. I know that the producers and writers of both projects follow S&A, so... indulge us for this post. Let's see where it all leads... if anywhere. Watching footage of a tall, late-20s, self-assured, brilliant and articulate Angela Davis waxing philosophic, giving magnificent rousing speeches, ushering in imminent revolution, is all very invigorating, and, at times, elicits impulsive applause in acknowledgment. As a reader of this blog, who do you think can convey that? And as an actress who believes you can, introduce yourself and show us why. Here's a visual reference to help.
by Tambay Obenson on April 20th 2017

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