Lifetime Orders Michael Jackson Original Movie, Picks Up James Franco, Viola Davis Films – TCA


Music biopics have done very well for Lifetime, which had cable’s #1 and #2 original movies of 2016 in key demographics with Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart and Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le. For 2017, the network is taking on the King of Pop with Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland (working title),  executive produced by Suzanne de Passe (The Jacksons: An American Dream), who has a long-standing relationship with the Jackson family, and staring Navi, a popular Michael Jackson tribute artist. The biopic, now in pre-production, will join the Britney Spears movie, Britney Ever After, which has been assigned a Feb. 18 premiere date.

Additionally, Lifetime announced today its second movie collaboration with James Franco after the Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? remake, romantic thriller High School Lover, which the network co-produced, and an acquisition of the indie feature Custory starring Viola Davis.

Lifetime 2016 logo 2

Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland, slated for a February production start date, is based on the best-selling book, Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days. Told through the eyes of the King of Pop’s bodyguards, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, the film will star Navi in his acting debut, alongside Chad L. Coleman (The Walking Dead) as Whitefield. Suzanne de Passe, Madison Jones and Robert Teitel are executive producing. Searching for Neverland is produced by Silver Screen (The Craigslist Killer). Dianne Houston is directing from a script by Elizabeth Hunter (Beauty Shop).


Viola Davis executive produces and stars in Custody, written and directed by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner James Lapine (Into the Woods), which will debut on Lifetime on Saturday, March 4. The  cast also includes Hayden Panettiere, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ellen Burstyn and Tony Shalhoub. Custody revolves around three women brought together when hard-working single mother, Sara Diaz (Moreno), has her children taken from her after she is suspected of injuring her son. Ally Fisher (Panettiere), a recent law school graduate, is assigned to represent her case before Judge Martha Schulman (Davis), a veteran of the Family Court System. Lauren Versel, Katie Mustard, Lapine and Roy Furman serve as producers. Davis, Julius Tennon, Jeff Elliott, Chad Moore, Gregory P. Shockro, Daryl Roth and Sandy Robertson executive produce.

James Franco
Associated Press

James Franco is executive producer and star in the romantic thriller, High School Lover, premiering on Saturday, February 4. When 17-year-old Kelly (Paulina Singer) falls in love with Christian (François Arnaud), an older man, her father (Franco) tries to intervene before the crush turns into a dangerous obsession. Produced by Elysium Bandini Studios for Lifetime, Franco executives produces along with Vince Jolivette. With a script from Amber Coney and Jessica Dube, Jerell Rosales directs the film.

Britney Ever After, starring Natasha Bassett as Britney Spears, will bow on February 18. The biopic follows the tumultuous story of the pop icon: her rise to fame, fall from grace and eventual resurrection. Britney Ever After is produced by Asylum Entertainment for Lifetime. Steve Michaels, Jonathan Koch and Joan Harrison are executive producers. Leslie Libman directs from a script from Anne-Marie Hess.

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