Among the announcements made during Lifetime network’s TCA tour presentation today were the following:
— First, the network has ordered a film based on the last few years of Michael Jackson’s life, tentatively titled “Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland,” which will be told through the eyes of his bodyguards. He will be played by Navi, considered the world’s most prominent Michael Jackson impersonator (photo above for comparison).
The project is based on the book “Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days,” written by Motown head Berry Gordy whose former creative assistant, Suzanne de Passe, will be the executive producer.
Chad L. Coleman (“The Walking Dead”) will co-star, playing one of MJ’s most trusted bodyguards, Bill Whitefield.
Elizabeth Hunter wrote the script, and Dianne Houston is set to direct. Production begins next month in Los Angeles, with the movie set to premiere sometime later this year.
The announcement comes on the heels of UK network Sky’s decision not to air a controversial episode of its new comedy series “Urban Myths” which had caused online ire after its trailer premiered earlier this week, giving us a first look at actor Joseph Fiennes who was picked to play the late superstar.
I should note that there’s another Michael Jackson film in the works. First announced in spring 2016, Dan Harmon (executive producer of the critically acclaimed stop motion feature film “Anomalisa,” from Charile Kaufman) will tackle another potential work of surrealism via stop-motion: a Michael Jackson story, but told through the eyes of his famous pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. Harmon acquired the screenplay for “Bubbles,” as the film will be titled, penned by Isaac Adamson. Official synopsis: “A baby chimp is adopted by the pop star Michael Jackson. Narrating his own story, Bubbles the Chimp details his life within The King of Pop’s inner circle through the scandals that later rocked Jackson’s life and eventually led to Bubbles’ release.”
The script was a Black List top pick – a survey of Hollywood’s best unproduced screenplays.
— And secondly, Viola Davis will produce and star in the Lifetime drama “Custody.”
From theater director James Lapine, “Custody” is set in family court in New York, and will see Davis co-star as Judge Martha Sherman, who presides over a custody case of a young woman (played by Catalina Sandino Moreno) who is on the verge of losing her children.
Via her still relatively young JuVee production company (launched just a couple of years ago), Davis is also producer on the project, along with Lauren Versel and Katie Mustard.
She returns to TV on January 26, when “How to Get Away With Murder” returns after its holiday hiatus. Davis is also a top contender for an Academy Award nomination (and win) for her performance in “Fences,” which is currently in theaters.
“Custody,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, will debut on Lifetime on March 4.