According to Deadline, the Whitney Houston biopic has found its new director in Kasi Lemmons, the actress-turned-director who directed another biopic, Harriet, with Cynthia Erivo. Aptly titled I Wanna Dance With Somebody after the Houston hit of the same name, Lemmons is replacing the previous director Stella Meghie, who reportedly left the project due to creative differences. This is unsurprising as this biopic is certain to be controversial, given Houston’s fame and fan support.
Although details are scarce about what the film will actually cover, I Wanna Dance With Somebody will follow the life of the acclaimed Grammy-winning singer and actress. Houston tragically died nearly 10 years ago due to an overdose. After a long and trying casting call, Naomi Ackie has been cast as Houston, a 28-year-old British actress best known for appearing as Jannah in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as well as Bonnie in The End of the F***ing World Season 2 and Alicia in Master of None‘s third season.
Lemmons first rose to prominence as an actor, appearing in The Silence of the Lambs and Candyman in the earlier 90s until switching to directing. Her first feature was the notable Eye’s Bayou, which was selected three years ago by the Library of Congress for preservation into the National Film Registry.
In an official statement, Lemmons said, “Early in my writing career I developed two projects for Whitney and I had the opportunity to meet her. She was a tremendous, incomparable artist and her story is as awe-inspiring as it is tragic. I feel privileged to be part of bringing her life story and music to the audience.”
Lemmons also has several high-profile projects in the works in addition to the Houston biopic. She will direct one episode of Women of the Movement, an anthology series about the civil rights movement and the women behind it. Additionally, she is attached to direct another miniseries called On Her Own Ground, a drama about C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur who built a beauty empire at the turn of the century. Finally, she is working on two literature adaptations: Ring Shout, a recent horror novel by P. Djèlí Clark, and the adaptation of Zadie Smith‘s On Beauty, which offers a look at the differences and similarities between two connected families.
All of these projects sound fantastic, as Lemmons is clearly highlighting Black and female voices. We’ll keep you up-to-date about her future project, I Wanna Dance With Somebody.