Mid-June it was announced that Disney star Zendaya Coleman would be portraying Aaliyah in the Lifetime movie. However, just a few weeks later, she dropped out of the role. The network made a statement via Twitter, "We are sad Zendaya will no longer portray Aaliyah. Production is currently on hold" (E!). Many people speculated as to why the young actress changed her mind. It was rumored that the amount of backlash she received from her being initially cast drove her to drop out. I'm not gonna lie, I wasn't a happy camper about her being cast either.
|Zendaya Coleman + E!|
Approval or not, a new Aaliyah has been chosen. Wendy Williams, who is executive producing the TV movie announced on Friday that Alexandra Shipp will be portraying Aaliyah. Shipp's previous credits include KT Rush on Nick's House of Anubis, as well as appearances on Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Switched at Birth, and Victorious.
Now that the star has been cast, the network has other problems to deal with. Zendaya originally had planned to record at least for of Aaliyah's songs. Not so fast. Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah's cousin and president of her label Background Records, informed TheWrap that the family was ready to withhold any rights regarding Aaliyah from the production. Now that's intense.
|Alexandra Shipp + Yahoo!|
“Because we control the masters, the rights and some images of the musical elements that we put together like the videos, and photo shoots and things that we did, what we can just withhold those elements from the production, which we would do,” Hankerson said last week (Yahoo!).
Withholding the rights would make things difficult. However, there are loopholes in obtaining usage rights to Aaliyah's songs. Blackground Records owns the recordings of Aaliyah's voice, but they don't own the publishing rights. Lifetime could simply purchase the rights to re-record the singles from their songwriters (Timbaland, Missy Elliott, just to name a few). We'll see what happens there.
The movie is titled Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, and will be based on the book "Aaliyah: More Than A Woman" by Christopher Farley.
The televised movie will be produced by Aaliyah Productions, Inc., with executive producers Howard Braunstein and Debra Martin Chase (Sparkle). Bradley Walsh is directing, screenwriter Michael Elliot (Brown Sugar). The film was set to begin filming this summer and premiere in the fall.
Lifetime seems keen on producing biopics. The Whitney Houston biopic is also in the works. Directed by Angela Bassett, YaYa DaCosta will portray the singer. The movie is set to premiere in 2015.