Mahershala Ali Will Embody Boxer Jack Johnson in ‘Unruly’

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jul 01, 2020

Two-time Academy Award-winner Mahershala Ali will star as the legendary boxing champ Jack Johnson (1878-1946) in a six-part limited series for HBO called “Unruly,” Deadline reports. The series is described as “an unapologetically Black, no-holds-barred telling,” according to Deadline. 

Ali—who laced up the boxing gloves once before to play Johnson on stage in “The Great White Hope” in 2000—will portray Johnson as he won bouts and rose through the boxing ranks to become the world’s first Black heavyweight boxing champion in 1908, while also fighting against Jim Crow racism. 

The script, based on the Ken Burns PBS documentary “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” and Geoffrey C. Ward’s companion book of the same name, will be penned by Dominique Morisseau (“Ain’t Too Proud”).

Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone company will produce the series and Ali will executive produce through his Know Wonder production company, alongside his wife Amatus Karim Ali, according to Deadline.