Deadline is exclusively reporting that Grammy-winning singer and actor Jill Scott has signed up to play the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, in the biopic Mahalia!, with Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, her partner Shakim Compere and Holly Carter serving as executive producers.
During a time when gospel music was not as mainstream as it is today, Mahalia Jackson became one of the wealthiest and most powerful entertainers in the world. Known as the mentor and inspiration behind Aretha Franklin, Jackson rose from poverty in New Orleans to became a platinum-selling artist. She was the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall and would continue to captivate audiences around the world, including presidents, kings and queens, until her death in 1972.
Mahalia Jackson was also known as being one of the most instrumental and ardent supporters of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as being a driving force behind John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Described by Harry Belafonte once as being “the single most powerful Black woman in the United States”, she was a formidable activist behind the scenes of some of America’s most influential politicians during one of the most tumultuous periods in America’s history.
Holly Carter released a statement saying:
I am beyond grateful to be able to partner with Latifah and Shakim again and equally excited that Jamie has joined the team. Much like The Clark Sisters, Mahalia! is another epic story of faith that is driven by powerful and uplifting music. I believe Ms. Scott was a God-send and will be absolute perfection in the lead role.
Queen Latifah added:
This is such an incredibly important story to tell and we’re thrilled to work with Jamie on the project. Shakim and I are also looking forward to re-teaming with our Clark Sisters producing partner, Holly Carter, to share Mahalia’s inspiring journey to becoming the Queen of Gospel music.
The film is based on the novel Mahalia Jackson by Darlene Donloe, which is being adapted by Richard Hocutt, Mark Gould and Tricia Woodgett. Hocutt and Woodgett, who brought the project to Holly Carter, will serve as producers. Mahalia! has also secured the rights to Jackson’s entire music catalogue, including ‘How I Got Over’, ‘His Eyes Are On The Sparrow’, ‘Move On Up A Little Higher’, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain.