Elijah Kelley From Lee Daniels Lands To Star In Sammy Davis Jr. Drama

Sammy Davis Jr.’s narrative will be told on Hulu in collaboration with Lee Daniels.

An eight-episode limited series exploring the life of the artist and recounted through the prism of his racial identity and relationship with the Black community has been picked up by the Disney-backed streaming service. Davis Jr. will be portrayed by Elijah Kelley, who has worked with Daniels twice before.

The untitled series will follow Sammy Davis Jr.’s rise from childhood stardom on the vaudeville stage to becoming one of the most well-known Black entertainers of the 1950s and 1960s (and the only Black member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack). It is based on Wil Haygood’s book, In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. In addition, he was the subject of controversy and mockery for the majority of his career due to his relationships with white film stars, his 1960 marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, his conversion to Judaism, his friendship with the Kennedys (and later Richard Nixon), and his substance abuse issues.

The series will be written by Thomas Westfall and Daniels, who frequently work together. The first two episodes of the drama will be executive produced and directed by Daniels. Westfall, who worked on Empire and Star as a writer and was an associate producer on The United States vs. Billie Holiday, will be listed as a co-EP. Along with Haygood, the author, Kelley will produce. Additionally, Marc Toberoff will executive produce.

In contrast, Daniels and Kelley previously collaborated on The Butler and Fox’s Empire spinoff Star. Kelley is a singer, dancer, and actor. Kelley has also worked on New Line’s Hairspray, NBC’s The Wiz Live, and BET’s The New Edition Story. He is rumoured to have contributed to some of the show’s original music. Ginsburg Daniels and Generational Entertainment are his agents.

Sammy Davis Jr.’s limited series is produced by 20th Television, where Daniels has a general contract. For the Disney-backed firm, he is now executive producing ABC’s The Wonder Years remake, Fox’s Our Kind of People, and the Hulu-turned-BET comedy The Ms. Pat Show. Hansen Jacobson and CAA are Daniels’ agents.

The Sammy Davis Jr. project originally made headlines in the middle of 2019 when Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, and Daniels’ Playtone were set to executive produce a television series based on the same novel.

Both the shooting location and the production’s launch date are still to be chosen.

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