The principal cast has been set for Genius: MLK/X, the Disney+ (formerly Nat Geo) series executive produced by Reggie Rock Bythewood and Gina Prince-Bythewood.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. will play Martin Luther King. Jr, and Aaron Pierre will play opposite him as Malcolm X. Weruche Opia and Jayme Lawson will star alongside as Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz, respectfully. Principal photography will start this October in Atlanta.
"We are beyond excited to have put together the incredible foursome of Kelvin, Aaron, Jayme and Weruche to bring the depth, complexity, and humanity to these indelible icons," said the Bythewoods in a statement. "They are all next level in their chops and their passion to tell this story."
A think tank has also been announced to help with the creation of the limited series. The historians and experts serving as consultants will provide education before the start of the writer’s room to guide the series’ production.
The think tank is as follows:
- Jamal Joseph (Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention), formerly a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, is a writer, director and professor of professional practice at Columbia University School of the Arts in the film department.
- Peniel E. Joseph is a writer whose book, The Sword and The Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., serves as inspiration for the series and also serves as a series consultant.
- Michele Norris is a columnist and consultant for Post Opinions and founding director of Peabody Award-winning The Race Card Project.
- Dr. Kameelah Rashad is the founder and president of the Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healing and emotional well-being in the American Muslim community.
- Dr. Barbara Reynolds is an award-winning journalist, author and minister who penned several books, including Jesse Jackson, America’s David and No, I Won’t Shut Up: 30 Years of Telling It Like It Is, with a foreword by Coretta Scott King.
- Ambassador Shabazz, producer, writer, diplomat and eldest daughter of Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X Shabazz, also serves as consulting producer for the series.
- Jeff Stetson, whose play The Meeting serves as inspiration for the series, is an internationally acclaimed award-winning playwright and screenwriter for film and television. He also serves as an executive producer on the series.
- Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at City University of New York, is the author or co-author of eleven books and numerous articles on the civil rights and Black Power movements.
- Pastor Michael A. Walrond, Jr., senior pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church, received numerous honors, accolades and recognitions, including induction into Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers.
"We wanted to assemble a consortium of scholars and experts who can not only lend their extensive knowledge, expertise and research but also create a space for meaningful debate and discussion to ensure an honest portrayal of the complexities of these iconic geniuses," said the Bythewoods. "The legacies of Martin and Malcolm are critical to our understanding of the social justice movements of today, so we had to get this right. We could not have asked for a more incredible group to guide us through their stories."
Channing Godfrey Peoples, whose directorial debut Miss Juneteenth reached critical acclaim, has also been named as a co-executive producer and will direct the pilot episode. Raphael Jackson Jr. and Damione Macedon are the showrunners.
Genius MLK/X was announced in April, with the plot set to focus on the push and pull between King and X’s ideologies.
According to the official description:
The fourth season will explore the formative years, pioneering accomplishments, duelling philosophies and key personal relationships of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. While King advanced racial equality through nonviolent protest, Malcolm X argued forcefully for Black empowerment, identity and self-determination. With their formidable wives, Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz, by their sides, King and Malcolm X became synonymous with the civil rights era and the fight for racial and economic justice. While they met only once and often challenged each other’s views, neither would have been as successful without the other.
The Bythewoods said in a statement in April that they want the series to focus on King and X's humanity.
“Malcolm and Martin are staggering icons, and we have been eager to explore the genius of these two very real men in a way that has not yet been seen,” they said. “We are excited to team up with Imagine Entertainment and 20th Television to reflect their amazing lives and contributions to civil rights and the urgency of today.”
Gina Prince-Bythewood’s latest film, The Woman King starring Viola Davis and John Boyega, is now in theaters.