EXCLUSIVE: Mo’Nique (Precious) and Khandi Alexander (Scandal) will co-star opposite Queen Latifah in Bessie, HBO’s film about iconic blues singer Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah). Written and directed by Dee Rees based on the life story of Smith, the project chronicles how Smith overcame her tempestuous personal life to become one of the most acclaimed performing and recording artists of the 1920s and ’30s, earning the nickname Empress of the Blues. Mo’Nique will play Ma Rainey, one of the first professional blues singers billed as The Mother of the Blues. Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett) was already well known when she met then-young Bessie. According to a popular story, which has been disputed, Rainey kidnapped Smith, making her join the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and teaching her to sing the blues. Alexander will play Bessie’s older sister, Viola. By the time Bessie was nine, both of her parents and one brother had died, with Viola taking care of her siblings. Bessie is produced by HBO Films in association with Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere’s Flavor Unit Entertainment and Lili and the late Richard Zanuck’s the Zanuck Co., with Lili Fini Zanuck, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone and Randi Michel serving as executive producer and Richard Zanuck also getting a posthumous exec producer credit.
Isaiah Washington & Mo’Nique To Star In Indie ‘We Are Family’, David Harewood Toplines ‘Free In Deed’
Isaiah Washington and Mo’Nique will star in the indie drama We Are Family for writer-director Choice Skinner (Brotherly Love), who also is producing with Washington. The plot follows five siblings and flashes back between their childhood and present day over a 25-year span. Now estranged adults, they reunite during the funeral of their alcoholic father and arrest of a brother who is charged with his murder. Washington will play the father. Orlando Jones and Daniele Watts co-star, and production kicks off this spring in Michigan. Washington’s Coalhouse Productions in producing with Skinner for Darkan Entertainment, Noam Dromi for Driveby Entertainment and Sidney and Mo’Nique Hicks’ for Hicks Media Productions.
Homeland alum David Harewood and Edwina Findley are set to star in the indie Free In Deed, from writer-director Jake Mahaffy (Wellness). Based on a true story, the film centers on a man (Harewood) who tries to perform a miracle and how a small congregation comes together to try and perform the miraculous healing of an 8-year-old autistic child. Findley, a regular on the David Simon series The Wire and Treme, will play the boy’s mother. Mike S. Ryan’s Greyshack Films, in conjunction with Brent Stiefel’s Votiv, are producing with Michael Bowes.
EXCLUSIVE: In her first screen starring turn since the ferocious portrayal as an abusive mother in 2009′s Precious won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Mo’Nique has joined Isaiah Washington in the Patrik Ian Polk-directed Blackbird, an adaptation of the novel by Larry Duplechan. Deadline revealed last fall that Washington took the lead in this indie off his turn as the DC sniper in Blue Caprice got him a Gotham Award nom. The pic just shot in Hattiesburg, MS.
Mo’Nique is also exec producer with her husband, Sidney Hicks, through Hicks Media. Newcomer Julian Walker plays the star singer in the church choir who feels like a misfit in his high school and struggles with his sexual awakening and the realization he is gay, something that doesn’t land well in a religiously conservative small Mississippi town. This coincides with his younger sister going missing and his parents splitting up. Mo’Nique plays another character who’s not going to win mother of the year awards: the youth’s heartbroken mom, who blames her son’s lifestyle revelation for his sister going missing. Washington plays his supportive father trying his best to help his son’s transition to manhood.
Beverly Hills, CA – Nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards® will be announced on Tuesday, January 25, by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak and Oscar-winning actress and Academy member Mo’Nique.
Sherak and Mo’Nique will unveil the nominations in 10 of the 24 categories at a 5:30 a.m. news conference at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, where hundreds of media representatives from around the world will be gathered. Nominations information for all categories will be distributed simultaneously to news media in attendance and via the Internet on the official Academy Awards website, www.oscar.com.
Last year Mo’Nique received her first Oscar nomination and win for her supporting performance in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” She currently hosts her own late-night talk show, “The Mo’Nique Show,” on BET.
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.