Emmy nominee Jovan Adepo and Juliana Canfield have signed on to star as abolitionists William and Ellen Craft in the upcoming movie “Everlasting Yea!” Co-written and co-directed by Lynn Nottage and Tony Gerber, the feature follows the “epic and deeply human” love story of the Crafts, as the couple rise to fame in the Abolitionist movement following their bold and perilous escape from slavery.
Set in the “free” North before the Civil War, “Everlasting Yea!” unveils the incredible untold true story as the Crafts “must negotiate their unwanted celebrity, their young marriage, and their safety as the news of their singular escape — with Ellen disguised as a white Southern gentleman, and William in the role of her obedient slave — becomes the most sensational and subversive news story of the day further dividing an already fractured nation.”
“Our film centers the complex reality of free Blacks in the antebellum North, posing the question, what is freedom, and what price must one pay in order to maintain it?” Nottage observed in a statement about the project, which marks her feature directorial debut.
With Nottage, a two-time Pulitzer winner, and Emmy and PGA award-winner Gerber, who has directed the documentaries “Full Battle Rattle” and “The Notorious Mr. Bout” at the helm, “Everlasting Yea!” will be produced by “Pachinko” showrunner Soo Hugh as well as Curate founder Britton Rizzio (“The Act”), with Ellen Craft’s great, great granddaughter, Julia Ellen Craft, serving as a consultant on the film.
“I’m incredibly excited to be working with Tony and Lynn to bring this piece of history to film,” stated Adepo, who in addition to starring as William Craft, is billed as an executive producer. “Ellen and Will’s story is only prefaced by their past as enslaved people. As runaways. Their true journey of discovery begins once they’ve arrived in the free North. When the running is done. That’s the story that I want to take part in sharing.”
Added Canfield: “Lynn and Tony’s movie follows a thrilling and surprising thread of our history. It’s an honor to join them and Jovan in this excavation of identity and declaration of love. Yea!”
Adepo, who earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series for his work on HBO’s “Watchmen” in 2020, is currently in production on Netflix’s “3 Body Problem,” starring opposite Benedict Wong and Eiza González in the series adaptation of Liu Cinix’s critically-acclaimed sci-fi novel from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The actor will next be seen in Damien Chazelle’s highly-anticipated Paramount film, “Babylon,” alongside Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt for Paramount, as well as Damian Szifron’s “Misanthrope” opposite Shailene Woodley and Ben Mendelsohn. Among Adepo’s other credits is Ava DuVernay’s Emmy-nominated Netflix series, “When They See Us,” Paramount/Bad Robot’s “Overlord,” and Paramount’s “Fences,” a classic adaption of August Wilson’s revered play, in which he portrayed the son of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Adepo is represented by WME and Powerline Entertainment.
Since graduating from the Yale School of Drama in 2017, Canfield’s star has been on the rise. In addition to her recurring role on HBO’s “Succession,” as Kendall Roy’s (Jeremy Strong) long-suffering executive assistant Jess Jordan, Canfield was recently a series regular on FX’s “Y: The Last Man.” Next up, the actor has booked a lead role opposite Jeff Wilbusch in “The Missing,” Peacock’s eight-episode series from David E. Kelley. Canfield is represented by Brookside Artist Management and ICM Partners.
Meanwhile, Nottage is coming of two nominations at the 2022 Tony Awards for the musical “MJ” and the stage play “Clyde’s,” making her the first writer in history to be nominated for the book of a musical and a new play in one Broadway season. She is also the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prize for Drama — with wins in 2017 for “Sweat,” which appeared on Broadway after a sold-out run at The Public Theater, and in 2009 for “Ruined,” which also won an Obie Award and Lortel Award. In addition to her trailblazing theater career, Nottage has also served as a writer and producer on Spike Lee’s Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” as well as a consulting producer on the Apple TV+ series “Dickinson.” She is repped by CAA and Manage-ment.
Gerber is best known for producing the critically-acclaimed and PGA award-winning film “Jane,” about the life and work of Dr. Jane Goodall, as well as the documentary “Takeover, about the Puerto Rican activist group The Young Lords, as they took over a decrepit hospital in the South Bronx launching a battle for their lives, their community, and healthcare for all. The documentary is set to be adapted into a feature film produced by Gerber and Nottage (who co-founded the NY-based production company, Market Road Films in 2005) and Sister, with Oscar-nominated screenwriter José Rivera writing the adaptation. Gerber is represented by CURATE, a boutique management firm that focuses on creators in film and TV. The company is founded Rizzio, who also produced Hulu’s “The Act,” which scored an Emmy win for Patricia Arquette and a nomination for Joey King. Rizzio began her career as an assistant and development executive for Gigi Pritzker before segueing to commercial and music video production; in 2007, she became a literary manager at Circle of Confusion.
Hugh currently serves as showrunner, writer and executive producer on the Apple TV+ series, “Pachinko,” based on the NY Times International best seller, and which was recently renewed for a second season. She is next set to serve as showrunner on the limited series adaptation of “The White Darkness,” based on the book by David Grann and starring Tom Hiddleston, for Apple TV+. With previous credits including AMC’s “The Terror,” ABC’s “The Whispers” and CBS’ “Under the Dome,” Hugh is based at Universal Content Productions with an overall deal and an incubator program, The Thousand Miles Project, which helps develop creators who want to tell stories about the Asian Pacific diaspora. She is represented by WME and McKuin Frankel.