Additional cast will include: Jharrel Jerome, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Janet Mock, Jason Moran, Wendell Pierce, Mj Rodriguez, Kendrick Sampson, Yara Shahidi and Michelle Wilson. They join previously announced cast members Angela Bassett, Alicia Garza, Joe Morton, Phylicia Rashad, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Courtney B. Vance, Pauletta Washington, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Oprah Winfrey.
Originally adapted and staged by the Apollo Theater in 2018, the special will combine elements of that production, including readings from Coates’ book, and will once again be directed by Apollo Theater executive producer Kamilah Forbes. It will also incorporate documentary footage from the actors’ home life, archival footage, and animation. The special, which is currently in production under COVID-19 guidelines, debuts this fall on HBO and will also be available to stream on HBO Max.
It is described as an exploration into Black Americans’ fraught history within the country and questions including what it means to live in a Black body. The book is written in the style of a letter to Coates’ teenage son, telling stories of Coates’ experiences growing up in Baltimore’s inner city, his growing fear of daily violence against the Black community and his notion that the structure of American society supports white supremacy.
Forbes will serve as executive producer in addition to directing. Other executive producers are Coates, Watson, and Roger Ross Williams. Williams’ production company One Story Up produces.
Jerome is repped by UTA, Kipperman Management, and Sloane Offer. Joseph is repped by Sozo Artists. Mock is repped by CAA, 3 Arts, and Del Shaw Moonves. Moran is repped by Gorfaine Schwartz Agency. Pierce is repped by Paradigm and Essential Talent. Rodriguez is repped by Gersh and Del Shaw Moonves. Sampson is repped by CAA and Hansen Jacobson. Shahidi is repped by CAA, Principal Entertainment, and attorney Ryan Nord. Wilson is repped by Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin & Associates and JWS Entertainment.