EXCLUSIVE: Grammy-winning singer and Black Lightning and Why Did I Get Married? actor Jill Scott will play the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, in Mahalia!, a new big-screen take that’s being executive produced by Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and her partner Shakim Compere and Clark Sisters EP Holly Carter.
Written by Richard Hocutt, Mark Gould and Tricia Woodgett, Mahalia! is based on the novel Mahalia Jackson by Darlene Donloe.
During a time when gospel music was not as mainstream as it is today, Jackson became one of the wealthiest and most powerful entertainers in the world. Known as the mentor and inspiration behind Aretha Franklin, Jackson rose from brutal poverty in New Orleans to become a platinum-selling artist. She was the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall and would continue to captivate audiences around the world, including presidents, kings, and queens, until her death in 1972.
Known as the inspiration behind the “I Have a Dream” speech, she was one of the most instrumental voices and ardent supporters of Martin Luther King Jr., the father of America’s civil rights movement, and a driving force behind John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Harry Belafonte once described Jackson as “the single most powerful Black woman in the United States” and, unknown to many, she was a formidable activist behind the scenes of some of America’s most influential politicians during one of the most tumultuous periods in our nation’s history, mirroring today’s political and social climate.
There is another Mahalia Jackson project in the works at Lifetime, but Mahalia! has secured the rights to Jackson’s entire musical catalog of hits including “How I Got Over,” “His Eyes Are on the Sparrow,” “Move on Up a Little Higher,” “Amazing Grace” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”
Woodgett and Hocutt, who are also producing, brought the project to Carter.
“I am beyond grateful to be able to partner with Latifah and Shakim again and equally excited that Jamie has joined the team. Much like The Clark Sisters, Mahalia! is another epic story of faith that is driven by powerful and uplifting music. I believe Ms. Scott was a God-send and will be absolute perfection in the lead role”, says Carter.
“This is such an incredibly important story to tell and we’re thrilled to work with Jamie on the project. Shakim and I are also looking forward to reteaming with our Clark Sisters producing partner, Holly Carter, to share Mahalia’s inspiring journey to becoming the Queen of Gospel music,” says Latifah.
Oscar and Grammy winner Foxx next stars in Netflix’s Project Power on August 14 and in Disney/Pixar’s Soul which is opening November 20. Scott’s credits also include Tate Taylor’s Get on Up, BET’s The First Wives Club and HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
Latifah is repped by UTA and Compere. Foxx is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Ziffren Brittenham. Carter is repped by CAA and Darrell Miller at Fox Rothschild. Scott is repped by ICM Partners, Shawn Gee and Stephen Barnes.