[12/12/06 - 03:50 PM]
Production Starts on a Special Movie Adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun," Starring Award-Winning Broadway Cast
Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, Sanaa Lathan and John Stamos all star in the three-hour television movie adaptation.

[via press release from ABC]


Sean Combs to Star and Executive-Produce His First Movie

Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, Sanaa Lathan and John Stamos Also Headline the Stellar Cast

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, Executive Producers of the Oscar-Winning Best Picture �Chicago,� to Executive-Produce

Production has started in Toronto on a special three-hour television movie adaptation of �A Raisin in the Sun,� the play that inspired a generation. Sean Combs, who will reprise the role of Walter Lee, Jr., which brought him recent acclaim, will star along with the cast of the award-winning Broadway revival, who will recreate their roles for the film, including Emmy and Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Tony Award nominee Sanaa Lathan, plus �ER� star John Stamos. �A Raisin in the Sun� will air during the 2007 season on the ABC Television Network.

�A Raisin in the Sun� tells the story of a family living and struggling on Chicago�s South Side in the 1950s. A fiercely moving portrait of people whose hopes and dreams are constantly deferred, �A Raisin in the Sun� was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. It premiered in 1959 with a cast that included Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett Jr. A Columbia Pictures feature version with the same cast followed in 1961.

Combs appeared opposite Halle Berry in �Monster�s Ball� and made his acting debut in the film �Made.� Phylicia Rashad won the Best Actress Tony Award for her role -- becoming the first African American actress to ever win the Tony in this category. Audra McDonald won the Best Featured Actress Tony Award for her role in the play, and Sanaa Lathan was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress for her performance in �A Raisin in the Sun.�

The ground-breaking drama portrays a brief period of time in the life of the Younger family as they anxiously await the arrival of a $10,000 life insurance check made out to Lena Younger (Phylicia Rashad, �The Cosby Show�), the family matriarch, from the estate of her late husband, Walter Lee. Everyone in the family has their own ideas about how they plan to use their new-found wealth and are eager for their new lives to start.

Lena, who would like to retire from her job as a domestic for a white family, dreams of escaping the claustrophobic, one-room tenement apartment to, at long last, own a house, a dream she shared with her late husband. Her son, Walter Lee, Jr. (Sean Combs), who currently works as a chauffeur, longs to prove his manhood by owning his own business and is obsessed with investing in a liquor store, which he thinks will solve the family�s money problems. His wife, Ruth (Audra McDonald, HBO�s �Wit,� ABC�s �Annie,� the upcoming Broadway production of �110 in the Shade�), is also a domestic in a white household and shares the ambition of living in a larger home. His sister, Beneatha (Sanaa Lathan, �Out of Time,� �Something New�), is desperately seeking her own identity and ways to express herself. On one hand, she looks to having a new, independent life and wants to go to medical school. But she also is being pursued by two very different men: George Murchison (Sean Patrick Thomas, �Barbershop 2: Back in Business�), a wealthy black man who is more interested in the superficial aspects of life and Joseph Asagai (David Oyelowo, �The Last King of Scotland�), a fellow classmate who peaks her interest in exploring her intellectual and spiritual roots in Africa.

Lena purchases a house with the insurance money, surprisingly, in an all-white residential neighborhood. In order to bolster her son�s self-confidence, she entrusts the remaining funds from the insurance windfall to Walter, with part of the money going toward Beneatha�s medical school. Walter decides to go in with his friend, Bobo (Bill Nunn, �Spider Man�), and a fast-talking scam artist, Willy Harris (Cephas Jones, �Law & Order�), to buy a liquor store.

Meanwhile, when the Claybourne community discovers that they are about to have a black family move in, their �home improvement� association conspires to try and buy out the Younger family to prevent the neighborhood from becoming integrated. Mr. Lindner (John Stamos, A&E�s �Wedding Wars�), the neighborhood�s emissary, makes Walter an offer to sell, which he refuses. As the family continues to pack up their belongings, Walter learns that his business investment has literally disappeared. The family is overwhelmed, outraged at Walter for throwing their dreams away and conflicted about their prospects. Walter considers making a deal with Lindner for their house to replace the missing money. But in the end, Walter takes a stand and refuses to be intimidated, becoming a better man in the process. The Younger family faces a somewhat uncertain life, but are imbued with a newfound sense of optimism and determined not to delay their dreams any longer.

The movie will be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron�s Storyline Entertainment, Sean Combs� Bad Boy World Wide Entertainment Group and Sony Pictures Television. The show�s Broadway producers, Carl Rumbaugh, Susan Batson and David Binder, will also serve as executive producers. Kenny Leon, who received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Director for his staging of the play on Broadway, will be making his film debut with this movie; and Paris Qualles, writer of the critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated �Tuskeegee Airmen� and �The Rosa Parks Story,� will adapt Hansberry�s play for the new movie event.

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron executive-produced the Oscar winning Best Picture �Chicago� and the Emmy-winning �Gypsy,� �Cinderella,� �Annie,� �Serving in Silence� and �Life with Judy Garland.� Their films have won six Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, eleven Emmy Awards and two Peabodys. For their work in television, their movies have amassed 66 Emmy nominations.

�A Raisin in the Sun� is a production of Storyline Entertainment and Bad Boy World Wide Entertainment Group in association with Sony Pictures Television.

  [december 2006]  

· ER (NBC)

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