Black-ish star Marsai Martin has been cast as the lead in Amazon’s original upcoming American Girl live-action special Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win, an American Girl Story, slated to premiere on Amazon Prime Video this fall.
Martin will play the title role of Melody in the special, set in 1963 Detroit during the civil rights movement. Executive produced by Common (Selma), and written and executive produced by Roots scribe Alison McDonald, the special also stars Frances Fisher (Titanic) as Miss Abbot, Frankie Faison (The Wire) as Melody’s grandfather Frank Ellison, and Idara Victor (Rizzoli & Isles) as Melody’s mother Frances Ellison.
Melody centers around 10-year-old Melody (Martin), whose eyes are opened to the racial inequality surrounding her, including the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing. As a result, her belief in the “indivisible” promise of our country’s Pledge of Allegiance comes into question as she challenges her teacher on the validity of this given the horrific tragedy. After an emotional journey of self-reflection, her mother gives her the courage she needs by reminding her that it’s important to “stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard or scary.”
The Melody special is an Amazon adaptation on American Girl’s original created stories written by Denise Lewis Patrick. The project falls under a multi-year, mulimillion dollar production deal Amazon inked earlier this year with Mattel subsidiary American Girl to produce four live-action specials based on the company’s popular American Girl line of dolls and books. Melody is directed and produced by Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned, Queen Sugar),and executive produced by Common’s Freedom Road Productions. Christopher Keenan and Melinda McCrocklin are executive producers for American Girl.
Martin plays the sassy youngest daughter “Diane” on ABC’s Emmy nominated comedy Black-ish, alongside Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne. Her work on the award-winning show has earned her a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Young Artists Award for Best Performance in a TV Series. Marsai most recently performed in the 35th Anniversary Celebration of the Tony-winning musical Dreamgirls with the original stars (Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine and Jennifer Holliday), singing the hit song “Move.” Marsai also recently worked on the films How To Die Happy with Meagan Good, and Fun Mom Dinner, with Toni Collette and Adam Levine.