#FIRSTLOOK: CASTING ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR “GENIUS: MLK/X”
Disney+ and National Geographic announced the following casting of the Original Series “Genius: MLK/X,” produced by 20th Television, Imagine Television and Undisputed Cinema: Kelvin Harrison Jr. (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Aaron Pierre (“The Underground Railroad”) as Malcolm X, Weruche Opia (“I May Destroy You”) as Coretta Scott King, and Jayme Lawson (“The Batman”) as Betty Shabazz. Principal photography will begin in October 2022 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. “They are all next level in their chops and their passion to tell this story.”
As previously announced, in a first for the franchise, the new season of the Emmy® Award-winning anthology series will focus on two iconic geniuses: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. “Genius: MLK/X” will explore the formative years, pioneering accomplishments, dueling philosophies and key personal relationships of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Harrison Jr.) and Malcolm X (Pierre). 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 (Opia) and Betty Shabazz (Lawson), 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.
In addition to casting news, executive producers Reggie Rock Bythewood and Gina Prince-Bythewood announced a think tank of renowned historians and experts serving as production consultants prior to the start of the writer’s room to guide the production, including the following (in alphabetical order):
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 honours, 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. 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,” added the Bythewoods.
Additionally, Channing Godfrey Peoples was named as co-executive producer and will direct the pilot episode for “Genius: MLK/X.” Godfrey Peoples made her feature directorial debut with “Miss Juneteenth,” for which she received the coveted National Board of Review Award for Best Directorial Debut and was also recognized with multiple nominations from the Gotham Awards and the Film Independent Spirit Awards, among others. Her television credits include Apple TV+ “Roar” and HBO Max’s “Generation” for directing and OWN’s “Queen Sugar” for screenwriting.
(Photo credit: Disney+)