Ellis portrayed Sharonne Salaam, the mother of the falsely accused Yusef Salaam in the acclaimed Netflix series. Debuting on the streamer in 2019, the Emmy winning When They See Us was based on the tale of five young men of color who were taken to court for raping a white female jogger in NYC in 1989 – a horrible crime they did not commit.
Along with co-star Niecy Nash, Ellis was nominated for an Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Primetime Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her WTSU performance. In 2021, Ellis was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for HBO’s Lovecraft Country, for which she also received a SAG Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast (or Ensemble) in a Drama Series nomination.
Before joining Caste, the busy actress recently finished work on Warner Bros.’ The Color Purple musical, Fox Searchlight’s The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat and Orion’s The Nickel Boys.
Caste has been filming for several weeks, but Ellis’s first day in front of the camera in Savannah Georgia was January 9, we hear. Financed by J4A, and with sales handled by CAA, the formerly Netflix attached Caste will move on to shoot in Germany and India later this year.
Back behind the camera for her first feature since 2018’s A Wrinkle In Time, ARRAY boss DuVernay recently saw the conclusion of the TV series Queen Sugar after seven seasons and the four-episode run of DMZ on HBO Max last year.
A best seller and much award shortlisted, Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents examines racism in America through the prism of social, economic and cultural delineation and “pillars” of exclusion. “Of all the books I’ve chosen for book club over the decades, there isn’t another that is more essential a read than this one,” said Oprah Winfrey in her summer 2020 selection of the Random House published Caste for her much-read book club. High and solid praise indeed, when you consider that Wilkerson won the National Book Critics Circle Awards nonfiction award in 2011 for her previous best seller The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.
Today, DuVernay had her own praise for Caste and its author.
“Isabel Wilkerson’s work as a storyteller has ignited my imagination and inspired new ways for me to think about social order around the world, the activist filmmaker told Deadline. “It’s been an honor to spend time with her and to deeply engage with her book. I thank her for the grace and kindness she has shown me as I attempt to share her ideas with a film audience.”
DuVernay is repped by Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein Lezcano Bobb & Dang and CAA. Ellis is represented by UTA and TMT Entertainment Group.
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