Ever-busy, fan-fave, Samuel L. Jackson made his Broadway debut last year when he portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in The Mountaintop, opposite fellow Oscar-nominee Angela Bassett (last seen in This Means War). The pair has entered talks to reunite for Black Nativity, Kasi Lemmons’ adaptation of the celebrated stage musical written by iconic African-American poet/playwright/novelist/activist Langston Hughes.
Black Nativity would mark the third collaboration between Jackson and Lemmons, following the well-received Eve’s Bayou and the (not-so) well-received Caveman’s Valentine. New reports also reveal that Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) is likewise circling the project.
Hughes’ original Black Nativity musical premiered on Broadway in December 1961; performances have since become an annual tradition across the U.S. Here’s how Variety describes the show:
Story follows a young black teen from Baltimore who is sent by his single mother to Harlem to spend Christmas with the grandparents he’s never met. Through his grandfather’s Christmas Eve sermon and a stylized, dream-sequence retelling of the classic Nativity story, he learns about the importance of faith and family.
Jackson is expected to wrap up his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained soon. He’s then set to work on the RoboCop remake/reboot, and will thereafter reprise his role as Nick Fury in Captain America 2. Once Jackson has finished with those big-budget productions, he should be available to re-team with Bassett and Lemmons for Black Nativity (where he’ll play the protagonist’s grandfather).
Bassett has been tapped to play the lead’s grandmother, while Hudson is hashing out a deal to portray the boy’s mother (who’s been estranged from her parents since her pregnancy). It’s also being reported that Jackson will end up playing multiple characters during the Nativity recreation sequences of the film, in addition to his aforementioned central role (ie. the Reverend Clarence Cobbs).
It sounds as though Lemmons’ cinematic take on Black Nativity will carryover the theatrical narrative design of Hughes’ source material, which features gospel renditions of traditional Christmas carols (along with a handful of original tunes). That is to say: Lemmons looks to integrate lavishing musical numbers and set pieces that are imaginary, within the context of the film’s real-world setting (think Chicago).
Recent jukebox movie musicals (Mamma Mia!, Rock of Ages) and films with original musical content (Hairspray, Sweeney Todd) have been released to mixed financial/critical results. The history and talent behind Black Nativity ensures that movie-musicphiles will be onboard; moreover, because it lies between the jukebox and original musical sub-genres, the film could have have cross-over appeal.
We’ll keep you updated on Black Nativity as the story develops.