While biographical films are all the rage these days, Hulu is taking a different approach. The streaming service said today that it will collaborate with Lee Daniels to produce a limited series based on the life of renowned singer Sammy Davis Jr. And they’re going to require an actor who can play one of the greatest entertainers of all time to tell the narrative. Elijah Kelley is a multi-hyphenated performer. Kelley is a triple threat as an actor, singer, and dancer, and lovers of musical theatre and movies will recognize him from roles in Hairspray, The Wiz Live!, and the action picture Red Tails. Kelley and Daniels will reunite on the series after previously working together on the feature films The Butler and Fox’s Star.
The series, which is based on Wil Haygood’s book In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr., will give viewers an inside look at Davis Jr.’s childhood and climb to prominence. The series will follow him from his early days as a vaudevillian artist, when he rose to prominence as one of the top Black entertainers of the 1950s and 1960s, through his meteoric rise to the top of the charts. It will also delve into who Davis Jr. was behind the music, with a focus on his time in Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack and the controversy surrounding his illustrious affairs with some of Hollywood’s most notable white actresses, his marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, his unexpected conversion to Judaism, his political ties and close personal relationship with both the Kennedy family and Richard Nixon, and his battle with substance abuse.
Daniels will executive produce, direct the first two episodes, and co-write the series alongside Thomas Westfall in addition to inventing it. Westfall also has credits as an associate producer on The United States vs. Billie Holiday, and the two have previously worked together on Empire, Star, and The Butler. Westfall will also serve as an executive producer on the untitled project. Kelley’s title will be expanded to producer in the show, where he’ll work alongside Haygood, the creator of the primary source. Marc Toberoff, the executive producer, will round up the production crew.
We’re glad to hear that Davis Jr.’s colourful, albeit somewhat controversial life will take centre stage in this new endeavour, especially with so many other singers and performers receiving their time in the spotlight. While we are aware of Daniels and Kelley’s involvement, this is just the beginning. When always, we’ll keep you updated as new information becomes available.