For a while there, it looked like director Kasi Lemmons was going to score Samuel L Jackson for one of the main roles in her latest, Black Nativity. But he never made a deal and with the casting on shakier ground, Fox Searchlight was all set to shelve the project shortly before production could kick off in October. But call the heavenly choir, for according to Blackfilm, there is good news: Forest Whitaker is stepping in to take the part instead.
Lemmons adapted the script from Langston Hughes’ 1961 gospel Broadway musical, which follows a black teenager from Baltimore dispatched by his single mother to stay with the grandparents he’s never met in Harlem. A troubled type, he learns the importance of faith, family, and quite possibly funk, thanks to his grandfather’s Christmas Eve sermon and stylized, dream-sequence re-tellings of the classic nativity story.
Whitaker is on to play Reverend Clarence Cobbs, the estranged grandfather, with Angela Bassett as his wife Aretha. Jennifer Hudson is set to be the boy’s mother, who has not spoken to her father since she got pregnant.
Though she’s still looking for an actor to play the young man, Lemmons appears set to start shooting in late January. Whitaker will next be seen in The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger when the film hits on January 25.