Issa Rae to Play Nina Simone in New Lorraine Hansberry Biopic

If there’s one rising star in Hollywood to look out for, Issa Rae is the one.  From her awesome YouTube series, to a new talk show on the Aspire Network, Rae is definitely leaving her mark.

A new biopic based on the life of  author, Lorraine Hansberry,  is in the early stages of development, but it is being reported that Issa Rae will take on the role of Nina Simone.

From Shadow & Act:

Issa Rae is set to play Nina Simone, who was a close friend of Lorraine until her death.

And Jaleel White will play James Baldwin, Hansberry’s close friend and confidant.

Will Stewart (Casting Director for Scandal) is casting the project, with additional announcements to come.

Production is slated to begin in early fall, with the project now heading into the pre-production stage.

Living quite an involved life, Hansberry was the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. She’s likely most-known for her seminal play about a struggling black family in Chicago, A Raisin in the Sun (a line taken from a Langston Hughes poem).

It was the first play produced on Broadway by an African American woman. It opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, and was a great success.

Taye Hansberry (grand niece of Lorraine Hansberry and author of stuffshelikes.net) and  Numa Perrier are the film’s writers. Taye Hansberry will also star in the film as Lorraine Hansberry.

  • http://www.lillian-mae.com Lillian Mae

    Now this may be worth checking out!

  • Joan

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!

  • Ask_ME

    I find it interesting that Lorraine Hansberry’s life story is being made into a movie. She has been dead for well over four decades. On top of that, she died young.

    Not much is known about her and I doubt her niece can shed light on the writer (her ex-husband couldn’t even do this effectively).

    It appears that Ms. Hansberry’s legacy is being taking advantaged of by an opportunist.

    This is one of those things that I think is better left alone. May she rest in peace.

  • http:tontonmichel.tumblr.com Tonton Michel

    Bet there won’t be any blackface mess in this one.

  • RenJennM

    I love Issa Rae! I’m a film major, and she’s one of my role models. It’s cool to hear she’s branching out from comedy and going for a biopic. Kudos to her! (Btw, she looks really pretty in that pic.)

    I’m also curious to see how well Jaleel White is going to do as James Baldwin. He does favor him a bit, but I want to see how well he portrays him. This should be an interesting watch. I’m definitely going to check it out!

  • http://nerdstradamas.wordpress.com nerdstradamas

    THIS!!! I am so excited.

    This is how a biopic should be done – with appropriate casting and the input of descendants or relatives. I am so proud of these Youtube sensations…OMG!

  • t

    yes! THAT is how you cast nina simone!

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    lose twenty ilbs and she might be convincing….

  • http://nerdstradamas.wordpress.com nerdstradamas

    Issa Rae and Numa Perrier are both black, female writers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lorraine Hansberry is an idol or inspiration to them. Hollywood has a way of either bastardizing or ignoring the stories of influential figures like Hansberry, so its great to see these women do something about it and immortalize Hansberry on film.

    Their intentions are more than like good…now if you want to talk about oportunistic…there’s this other film coming out…

  • Ask_ME

    My issues is I don’t think this will be a true biopic. I have done my research on Ms. Hansberry. There is not much out there about her. She died a mystery. I would rather not see a fictionalized account of her life.

  • Me27

    I agree Ask_Me there is not much information available on Lorraine Hansberry’s life. I had to do a research paper & presentation about her life and the play A Raisin in the Sun when I was in college and I found it difficult to find any information about her background. Maybe Issa, Numa, and Taye were able to find out more intimate details about Lorraine’s life through family members…

  • Ask_ME

    I doubt her family even knew her well. If they did, they waited a long time to say something. The man she married doesn’t appear to have known her well either.

  • C4x

    But…she can’t really act. Why are y’all hype? She’s comedically gifted, but otherwise, no!

  • The Other Jess

    She looks nothing like Nina Simone either. Slimmer features, different skin tone, and seemingly totally different personalities.

  • Nkem

    I am SOOOOOO HAPPY for her!!!!!!! Yay!!!

  • Cia

    I love Issa but I have major concerns about her acting in such a serious role. I will definitely support though. Funny folks were so against Zoe Saldana as Nina but Issa, other than being closer in complexion, doesn’t look like her either. I rather have a stronger actor than simply more complexion similarity.

  • Treece

    Ummmm….those of you that think that your research of Ms. Hansberry is so extensive that there couldn’t possibly be anyone else out there capable of finding more information about her than you did should kindly build a bridge, and get over yourselves.

    Her family most likely has more information about Lorraine Hansberry’s life than any book or article housed in the most expansive libraries. chances are, they know thier relative well enough to what they’re doing making this film. Your little college/high school research most likely doesn’t compare to the stories and info that only her family and those closest to her are privy to. What makes you so much of an authority on Ms. Hansberry that you get to judge her family members’ efforts in making a biopic about her??

  • Ask_ME

    @Treece

    Please kick rocks! We are NOT the only people that have looked into information on Ms. Hansberry. There are scholars who have acknowledged the lack of information on her as well. The prologue of modern day copies of A Raisin In The Sun acknowledge the lack of information on her.

    If her family had some “special insider information” on her don’t you think they would have come forward before now??? Don’t you think they would have TRIED to keep her legacy alive by releasing that information or her papers or something that serves to give more insight into her life???

    Get a clue! Ms. Hansberry has been DEAD since 1965. Taye is her GREAT niece. I doubt she even knew the woman.

  • MommieDearest

    I’m looking forward to seeing this. While there is little known about Lorraine Hansberry in the “mainstream” I am sure her neice, other family members and friends have enough material to make a compelling film. They may not even focus on her entire life, but a segment of her life (like they did in “42″ for Jackie Robinson). She is an important black female writer who’s work left a mark on a generation and those that followed. I’m glad her story will be told.

    As for Issa being cast as Nina, I’m kind of “meh” about it. The movie isn’t about Nina Simone, it’s about Lorraine Hansberry, so I’m neither elated or up in arms about the choice to use her in that role.

  • http://sixfoota.tumblr.com sixfoota

    But.. like.. can Issa Rae really ACT? YouTube comedic series does not an actor or actress make. That’s my girl (in my head) & all but yeah, not sure about this.

  • Treece

    “If her family had some “special insider information” on her don’t you think they would have come forward before now??? Don’t you think they would have TRIED to keep her legacy alive by releasing that information or her papers or something that serves to give more insight into her life???

    Get a clue! Ms. Hansberry has been DEAD since 1965. Taye is her GREAT niece. I doubt she even knew the woman.”

    LOL @ “kick rocks”! Don’t be salty just because it’s possible that her great niece was able to dig up more info on her (at least enough to create a biopic) than your little tired ass personal research…

    Truth of the matter is you DON’T KNOW how much Ms. Hansberry’s family knows or doesn’t know about her and her life. You were just being really judgemental and full of yourself to think that someone did a better job researching her and her life (even if it was extended family) than you did. They may just be spotlighting one time period in her life with enough meat to make a two hour film. WE DON’T KNOW. So to sit behind a computer (or other device) and propose that just b/c this is her great-niece, that she and other educated folks involved in the film don’t know enough to put together a film b/c you couldn’t is quite pompous and asshole-ish!

    And, Taye may have been her niece but that would make her mother or father Lorraine Hansberry’s niece or nephew so who knows what info they had on her or what that relationship was. I think you’re the one who desperately needs the clue….

  • Treece

    “Taye may have been her great niece” is what I meant to say

  • Ask_ME

    @Treece

    I suggest you take two steps back and go do YOUR research.

    The fact of the matter is SCHOLARS (not just us common folks) have dug into this woman’s life and came up empty.

    Her own (ex) husband (who was over her estate) of ten years (if I’m not mistaken) failed to produce any information on her other than some unfinished plays and a few essays.

    So, if folks like you want to tell yourselves that her GREAT niece has more information on this woman than scholars, the man she shared her life with, WHO AGAIN WAS THE EXECUTIVE OF HER ESTATE, or any sibling (probably also dead), who NEVER came forward with any information go right ahead. Some of us know better.

    Peace!

  • http://nerdstradamas.wordpress.com nerdstradamas

    I read “To Be Young, Gifted and Black: An Informal Autobiography” on Lorraine Hansberry in 7th grade. There were small little nuances in the book, like her smoking, the way she detailed how her skin was breaking out because she had no time to wash her hair as she was working on writing….if the biopic is anything like that autobiography, I’m all here for it. The biopic might not be from cradle to grave…it could be a snapshot of the most critical time(s) in her life. I need to read that book again…

    I am remaining optimistic about this project.

  • Treece

    “Her own (ex) husband (who was over her estate) of ten years (if I’m not mistaken) failed to produce any information on her other than some unfinished plays and a few essays.

    So, if folks like you want to tell yourselves that her GREAT niece has more information on this woman than scholars, the man she shared her life with, WHO AGAIN WAS THE EXECUTIVE OF HER ESTATE, or any sibling (probably also dead), who NEVER came forward with any information go right ahead. Some of us know better.”

    All I’m saying is (and I repeat) we don’t know what information her family was privy too, and what story they are planning to tell in this film. As one commenter has already stated, this may be a film that spotlights one time in her life that was full of enough dramatic events and information to cover the length of your average movie. WE DON’T KNOW.

    I don’t think it’s right to automatically assume that b/c of the lack of information out there right now about Hansberry’s life, and the fact that her ex-husband didn’t come forward with much information about her (I repeat “didn’t COME FORWARD”), that the film makers are taking advantage of her legacy or are opportunistic. That’s an unfair judgement. I take it you don’t know Taye Hansberry personally or know any of the information she MAY have that you or the other scholars you spoke of do not. So how can you so matter-of-factly deduce that the movie will be bogus based on what you DON’T KNOW?

    You have a good one.

  • TR

    Does Rae have the acting chops to play Nina Simone? Can she become Ms. Simone the way Denzel Washington became Malcolm X or the way Jamie Foxx became Ray Charles? Those two are Academy Award winners. Does Ms. Rae have Academy Award-type acting chops? If not she should leave this role alone. This role is for that kind of actress.

  • Child, Please

    I think I’m going to have to side with those questioning Ms. Rae’s acting repertoire. I mean she’s made some laugh, but what else can she bring. I’m proud of her accomplishments (though I’m not a fan of her work) as a writer and wanted to see what new things her and Shonda could bring to television writing, but she would only be another person acting for the sake of acting rather than saying hey, there are talented black actresses you know, maybe this person would be a better fit. I wish her well, and while I’m not discouraging her from stepping outside her box, I think this role would be better served by someone else. She could always build her acting skills on her show with Shonda.

  • GlowBelle

    Love Issa Rae and glad to see she’s getting some shine, but I’m on the fence because I’ve only seen her in AWB and she doesn’t scream ‘Nina Simone’ to me. She may have range, like most actors *should*, but still a strange casting.

    Besides I’m more interested in someone taking a look at Lorraine Hansberry’s legacy than this casting. Hansberry is one of my writing inspirations and I’m happy to hear that her story will be told and that her family will have some big involvement on how this movie will play out.

  • talaktochoba

    much, much better portrayal of Nina, and the only one i’d pay money to see–hopefully the film flops miserably as New Coke, then Zoe will have to “audition” for the other half of Hollywood to get another job…

  • WinterQueen

    Why do they keep missing the obvious! Cast VIOLA DAVIS!!! Like she is the perfect choice! Come on people!

  • http://mavis-musings-music.blogspot.co.uk/ Mavis

    Issa Rae is amazing. So i’m sure she’ll be great playing Nina Simone

  • http://twitter.com/kilak Kila Kitu (@kilak)

    Poo-poo to whether or not theres new research, blah blah blah. Bottom line, Lorraine Hansberry deserves such a project and it’s about time!

  • Nakia

    This is what I’m wondering. I’ve only seen her in ABG which seem like a far cry. Can she pull off a dramatic role? Time will tell.

  • Nakia

    With make-up, costuming and skill (studying the persons mannerisms and speech patterns,etc), an actor only needs to resemble the basic characteristics (physically) of a person to play them Denzel doesn’t look like Malcolm, Will like Ali, Foxx like Ray Charles, and Angela Basset definitely does not look like Tina Turner. Zoe was just TOO far off (cone on, black face?), plus, she’s not that strong of an actress, either.

    I do agree about her playing a serious role, though. Nina Simone seemed to have some serious personality.

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