Melina Matsoukas and Tarell Alvin McCraney Snag New TV and Film Projects

By Sameer Rao Sep 26, 2017

Director Melina Matsoukas ("Insecure," "Formation") and writer Tarell Alvin McCraney ("Moonlight") each achieved fame on the strength of screen projects that explored rarely-depicted aspects of Black identity. Both rising stars will carry this ethos into their latest projects.

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) reported yesterday (September 25) that Matsoukas will direct and executive produce a series adaptation of "A Brief History of Seven Killings" for Amazon Studios. Jamaican novelist Marlon James will write the screenplay based on his 2014 book. James earned the 2015 Man Booker Prize for the novel, which THR says "looked at Jamaican politics, poverty, race, class and the volatile relationship between the U.S. and the Caribbean, and traced the connection between CIA efforts to destabilize a left-wing Jamaican government in the 1970s to the brutal realities of gang wars in the Kingston ghettos and their spread to New York in the 1980s."

"’A Brief History of Seven Killings’ is a complex story that needs to be told, about a people whose voices need to be heard,” Matsoukas tells THR. “It’s been my dream to bring this story to life onscreen since reading the first line of Marlon’s book. I am deeply honored to be entrusted with this tapestry of stories so entrenched in roots, reggae, race, mysticism and politics, while working alongside Marlon to ensure an authentic portrayal of his words."

"Empire" executive producer Malcolm Spellman, who will also produce HBO’s "Confederate," will serve as the showrunner.

As for McCraney, Deadline reported yesterday that the Academy Award winner will script a musical film, tentatively titled "Cyrano the Moor," for Disney. The musical draws from French dramatist Edmond Rostrand’s "Cyrano de Bergerac" and English playwright William Shakespeare’s "Othello." Rostrand’s 1897 play follows a French nobleman who, insecure about his large nose, enlists a handsome soldier to recite his romantic odes to a woman they both love. Shakespeare’s 17th century play tells the tragic story of a Moorish general in the Venetian military whose junior officer manipulates him into paranoia about his wife’s supposed infidelity. Most contemporary film and stage adaptations of "Othello" depict the titular protagonist as Black.

Deadline did not reveal what aspects of each play will figure into McCarney’s script, but did report that "Selma" star David Oyelowo will fill the musical’s lead role. The British actor portrayed Othello in a recent off-Broadway stage production with the New York Theatre Workshop.