Leading an all-Black cast, Gray stars in the Paramount Players movie as Bri, a 16-year-old who wants to become one of the greatest rappers of all time — or, as the film’s longline says, “at least win her first rap battle.” The coming-of-age story follows Bri’s fight to rise to the top, despite the cards being stacked against her.
“It’s hard to get your come up when you’re mislabeled a troublemaker at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job,” the description explains. “So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral … for all the wrong reasons.”
While the song was written in response to being assaulted by school security guards, Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy and “wrongly portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it — she has to.”
The new movie is based on Thomas’ young adult novel released in February 2019, which hit No.1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Like with the film adaptation for “The Hate U Give” in 2018, Thomas is on board to produce “On the Come Up” with Temple Hill and State Street.
Sanaa Lathan will make her feature directorial debut with the movie, scripted by Kay Oyegun (“Queen Sugar,” “This Is Us,” “Children of Blood & Bone”). Lathan will also star in the project alongside Gray, Lil Yachty, GaTa (aka Davionte Ganter), Miles Gutierrez-Riley (“The Wilds,” “The Moon and Back”), Titus Makin Jr. and Michael Anthony Cooper Jr.
Best known for her work onscreen in iconic films like “Love & Basketball,” Lathan most recently joined the ensemble cast of HBO’s “Succession” for the Emmy-winning series’ third season, which premiered on Sunday. The Tony-nominated actor also starred opposite Lior Raz in the Netflix action thriller “Hit and Run” and directed the short film “Leap” (which is part of “With/In,” a film anthology shot during lockdown) that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Lathan’s other recent credits include “The Affair,” “Native Son,” “The Twilight Zone,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion,” Jon M. Chu’s “Now You See Me 2” and “American Assassin,” opposite Michael Keaton.
For Gray, landing the starring role in “On the Come Up” put the budding actor on a similar path as her on-the-rise character. The relative newcomer has appeared in a number of short films and is currently filming the drama “American Girl,” which is set to debut in 2022.
Gray is represented by APA and Alexander White Agency; Lathan is represented by CAA and Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner Endlich & Gellman.