EXCLUSIVE: Nelsan Ellis has been set to play Bobby Byrd, James Brown’s longtime friend and musical collaborator in the Tate Taylor-directed Get On Up for Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures. Imagine’s Brian Grazer is producing with Jagged Films’ Mick Jagger. It’s a big role in the film behind Brown, who’s being played by Chadwick Boseman. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer also star. Ellis is best known for playing Lafayette on the HBO vampire series True Blood. He was last seen on screen playing Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and his screen credits include The Express, The Soloist, Secretariat, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. He is repped by ICM Partners and Brookside Artist Management.
Universal will start production November in Mississippi. The script is by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Steven Baigelman, and Victoria Pearman and Erica Huggins are also producing.