In 2013, just before “12 Years a Slave” opened in USA theaters, we interviewed members of its key cast (as well as director Steve McQueen), including Alfre Woodard, who told us at the time that she was raising money “to do this fabulous script that actually my husband [Roderick Spencer] wrote,” when we closed our conversation with her, asking what was next.
“He adapted it from a Sheila Williams book called ‘Dancing on the Edge of the Roof.’ We’ve got such a great script. We hope to be shooting that by next summer, and it’s a really great, funny and poignant film. Stephanie Allain is our producer,” Woodard continued.
Stephanie Allain is of course producer of numerous films we’ve covered on this blog over the years, including “Dear White People” (executive producer), “Beyond the Lights” (producer), “French Dirty” (executive producer), “Burning Sands” (producer), and more.
Skip ahead 3 1/2 years later to today, and thanks to a reader in Richmond, VA who informed us that principal photography on the film, which will be titled “Juanita,” is set to go into production in Virginia (specifically in Bedford and Central Virginia, including Petersburg) this spring.
Another VA reader pointed us to an April 5 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch which confirms the above.
From the article, which shares more info than we’ve had up until now:
Keep your eye out for movie crews around Petersburg. Feature film “Juanita,” starring Alfre Woodard from “12 Years a Slave” and Petersburg native Blair Underwood, will be filming in Virginia this spring. Based on the novel “Dancing on the Edge of the Roof” by Sheila Williams, the movie tells the story of Juanita, a nurse’s aide, mother and grandmother, who breaks free of her tiring life caring for others and sets out on an adventure. The movie will be directed by Clark Johnson of “Homeland” and “The Wire. Virginia native Mel Jones (“Dear White People”), Stephanie Allain (“Hustle & Flow”) and Jason Michael Berman (“The Birth of a Nation”) will produce the film. The trios’ last project, “Burning Sands,” filmed in Petersburg last spring and was an official selection at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. That movie is now available on Netflix. “We are thrilled to welcome this talented film-making team back to the Commonwealth to film this story of female empowerment,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement… The film is eligible to receive up to a $550,000 grant from the Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund, in addition to a Virginia film tax credit.
So there you have it! Blair Underwood apparently co-stars in the film with Woodard, and Clark Johnson, who doesn’t get much press for his directing credits, is directing “Juanita.”
The novel the film is based on was published on paperback on October 29, 2002. Here’s Amazon’s longer description of it:
Juanita Lewis is running away from home, courtesy of a one-way ticket to Montana, a place that seems about as far away from the violence and poverty of the Columbus, Ohio, projects as the moon. She wants adventure and excitement–if such things exist for a pre-menopausal African American woman with three grown, deadbeat children. Juanita’s new life in Paper Moon, Montana, begins at a local diner where a culinary face-off with chef and owner Jess Gardiner finds Juanita in front of Jess’ stove serving up home cookin’ that lures the townsfolk like a magic spell. And suddenly Juanita, who was just passin’ through, now has a job by popular demand. Out here in this wide-open space, Juanita’s heart can no longer hide, especially when she sees herself through the eyes of the wonderful and eccentric people of this down-to-earth town. She’s happy in Paper Moon; she’s found a home, but can she stay? And then there’s Jess. She has always dreamed of romance, but she never planned on falling in love.
Of course Alfre Woodard is playing Juanita. Blair Underwood is likely Jess; or some variation of Jess. We can only speculate at this point. But it reads like we have the makings of a good old fashion character-driven adult drama-romance with talent both in front of and behind the camera, and we can’t wait to see what comes of “Juanita.”
If you’ve read the novel, chime in with your reactions to it and how you see it unfolding on screen; if you’d like to read it, click here on the cover below to pick up a copy from Amazon.