While biopic films may be all-the-rage these days, Hulu is going to try something different. Today, the streaming service announced that they’ll be pairing up with Lee Daniels to create a limited series around the life of legendary singer Sammy Davis Jr. And to tell the story behind one of the greatest entertainers of all time, they’re going to need an actor that’s up to the part. Enter multi-hyphenated performer, Elijah Kelley. A triple threat as an actor, singer, and dancer, musical theater and film fans alike are bound to know Kelley from his appearances in projects including 2007’s Hairspray, The Wiz Live!, and the action film, Red Tails. The series will mark a reunion for Kelley and Daniels who have previously worked together on the feature film, The Butler and Fox’s Star.
Adapted from Wil Haygood’s book, In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr., the series will give viewers an inside look into Davis Jr.’s early years as well as his rise to fame. From his beginning days as a vaudevillian performer, where he gained notoriety as one of the top Black entertainers of the 1950s and ‘60s, to his ride all the way to the top of the charts, the series will leave no stone unturned. It will also do a deep dive on who Davis Jr. was behind the music, focusing on his time in Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack and the contention surrounding his illustrious affairs with some of Hollywood’s most notable white actresses, his marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, his unexpected conversion to Judaism, his political ties and tight-knit personal relationship with both the Kennedy family and Richard Nixon, and his battle with substance abuse.
Along with creating the series, Daniels will also executive produce, direct the first two episodes, and pen the series with Thomas Westfall. The pair have previously worked together on both Empire, Star, and The Butler with Westfall also holding credits as an associate producer on The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Westfall will also executive produce in the yet-to-be-named series. Kelley will add producer to his title in the show where he’ll serve alongside the primary source’s author, Haygood. Rounding out the production team will be executive producer Marc Toberoff.
With countless other musicians and entertainers getting their time in the sun, we’re happy to hear that Davis Jr.’s exciting, albeit semi-controversial life will take the main stage of this new project. While we know about Daniels and Kelley’s involvement, this is only the tip of the iceberg. As always, we’ll keep you posted with new information as it rolls out.