A new biopic, Rosa, based on Jeanne Theoharis’ book The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks, is currently on the fast-track for a 2019 release. But this isn’t the first time Parks’ life and activism have been presented on screen.
In honor of her birthday, February 4, here are four times Parks was portrayed on film:
Angela Bassett (The Rosa Parks Story)
Bassett portrayed Parks in 2002 for the TV movie The Rosa Parks Story. Directed by Julie Dash and also starring Cicely Tyson, The Rosa Parks Story retells the events surrounding Parks’ legendary decision to sit in the white section of a Montgomery bus.
Bassett said in a Hollywood.com interview that she was able to meet Parks in 1994 in Atlanta, where they both received recognition from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She said she found Parks to be “very giving, very kind, very unselfish and very sweet.” But she said she never thought she’d be able to play her.
“I said to someone when I met Mrs. Parks in 1994…I remember it never crossed my mind one that they should do her story and I’d love to play it. I guess I was just so in awe of meeting her and I didn’t have the vision to see down the road that far.”
Vinette Robinson (Doctor Who)
In October 2018, Robinson portrayed Parks in the latest season of Doctor Who. The episode, “Rosa,” has the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions traveling back to 1955 to save the history of Parks’ bus ride from those who’d want to alter history forever.
Many viewers relished the episode and its moving tribute to Parks. Even more touching was the fact that Malorie Blackman, the series’s first writer of color and its sixth female writer, wrote it.
Meta Golding (Behind the Movement)
In February 2018, TV One debuted Behind the Movement, an original movie that relayed the story of Parks’ actions which led to the Montgomery bus boycott. Meta Golding took on the mantle of Parks, which she called “the honor of my career.”
“Your career ebbs and flows. There was a point where I was always everybody’s love interest, and then I was the girl who was crying all the time, and then I was the drug addict, and then I was the smart girl,” she said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. I’ve really played very different roles. But this one, in particular, is my biggest honor.”
Iris Little Thomas (Boycott)
Iris Little Thomas plays Parks in 2001’s HBO TV movie Boycott, which also stars Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King. The film follows the entirety of the bus boycott, starting from Parks’ refusal to move until the end of the boycott in 1956.
Thomas was praised for her portrayal of Parks by Variety’s Phil Gallo, who wrote that Thomas successfully showcases “a determined woman filled with conviction.” The New York Times’ Caryn James also loved Thomas’ portrayal, lauding how she made it clear “that the quiet, gracious Rosa Parks knew exactly what she was doing.”