Alexandra Shipp will play Aaliyah in the upcoming Lifetime biopic, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, according to talk show hostess Wendy Williams, who will be the executive producer for the made-for-TV film. Williams announced the choice of Shipp via the social media site, Twitter, on Friday. Aaliyah passed away at the young age of 22. She had finished filming a music video in the Bahamas when the plane she was flying in crashed.
Williams mentioned in the tweet she sent that “Prod starts later this month.”
Lifetime will not delay the date the Aaliyah biopic is broadcast on TV because of the renewed search for an actress to play Aaliyah when the original choice, Zendaya Coleman, 17, dropped out of playing her in June. Production will begin this summer and Aaliyah: Princess of R&B is scheduled to be broadcast on TV in the fall.
At first, Disney Channel actress Zendaya said that she felt honored and proud to be cast as Aaliyah. Zendaya tweeted about what “an inspiration and influence” Aaliyah had been on her life and career. She added that she just wanted to “honor her.” However, after fans of the late singer and her family members criticized Lifetime’s decision to cast her, Zendaya decided to pass on the role after having it less than two weeks.
Zendaya has not said that the criticism of fans of Aaliyah and the late singer’s family played a part in her decision, but it had to have been rough hearing their critical remarks that someone else would have been a better choice. Rather, she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight the reason she left the project was that “I feel like there were certain things that were missing and things that weren’t 100 percent taken care of.” Because of that, Zendaya stated in the interview “It just wasn’t a good choice for me.”
Alexandra Shipp, 23, was the actress Lifetime recently cast to play Aaliyah. She has acted in the Nickelodeon series House of Anubis and on Ray Donovan (Showtime) and Awkward (MTV).
Shipp tweeted, as Zendaya had, about how happy she was to be selected to play Aaliyah. She tweeted “It’s like God keeps making life better.” Hopefully, there will not be any backlash from fans of Aaliyah and/or Aaliyah’s family that will also cause Alexandra Shipp to drop out of the project.
It is still early, but so far, fans of both Shipp and Aaliyah seem to be happy with the choice. However, the family of Aaliyah, which desires that the story of Aaliyah’s life gets a Big Screen treatment, will likely not be satisfied with any actress involved in a small screen, made-for-TV biopic.
Aaliyah’s cousin and president of her label Blackground Records, Jomo Hankerson, has said that the family wants Aaliyah’s life story to be “a major studio release along the lines of What’s Love Got to Do with It, the Tina Turner movie.” He continued on, stating that the family wanted “A-list actors, A-list talent” to be in any movie made about her.
That requirement be Aaliyah’s family might leave out Alexandra Shipp, in their estimation. Though Shipp has had quite a bit of acting experience for her age, the family of Aaliyah might hold firm in their desire to see a big name actress play the deceased singer.
Lifetime has not been able to get Aaliyah’s family to authorize the use of any of her music in the planned biopic, either. Without her music in it, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, based on the Christopher Farley book, Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, may not do very well in the ratings.
Aaliyah’s family may have had a change of heart with the announcement by Lifetime that Alexandra Shipp will play the late singer in the movie. At any rate, Aaliyah Productions Inc. is producing the film. Besides Wendy Williams, the two other executive producers of the biopic are Debra Martin Chase of (The Princess Diaries) and Howard Braunstein (The Informant). The script for Aaliyih: More Than a Woman was written by Michael Elliot. Bradley Walsh (Brown Sugar) will be the director.
Written By Douglas Cobb