HBO’s Between The World and Me sets ensemble cast
After announcing late last month that a special adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World and Me was in the works, HBO has begun building an ensemble cast for the project that includes Angela Bassett (Black Panther), Joe Morton (Scandal), Courtney B. Vance (Uncorked) and Oprah Winfrey (A Wrinkle in Time).
Other major names signed on for the series include Black Futures Lab’s Alicia Garza, Phylicia Rashad (Black Box), Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter (The Deuce), Pauletta Washington (Genius: Aretha) and Susan Kelechi Watson (This Is Us), who is also set to executive produce the project.
Originally adapted and staged by the Apollo Theater in 2018, the special will combine elements of that production, including powerful readings from Coates’ book, and will once again be directed by award-winning director and Apollo Theater Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes. In addition to producing this special, HBO will be making a charitable donation to Howard University and the Apollo Theater.
“Ta-Nehisi’s book is a modern literary classic that provides an essential message for our times,” Casey Bloys, President, HBO Programming, said in a previous statement. “We are tremendously proud to bring this incredibly important event to our audiences.”
“I’ve been working with Kamilah for almost as long as I’ve been a writer,” Coates previously said in a statement. “I can think of no one better to put Between the World and Me on screen and no better home for it than HBO.”
“As people across our country continue to speak out about violent, systemic racism and the urgent need for tangible change, Ta-Nehisi’s words resonate as strongly today as they did five years ago,” Forbes previously said in a statement. “I’m excited to collaborate again with both Ta-Nehisi and HBO on this important special event, ensuring that the powerful voices in this work and the cry for justice from the Black community continue to reach a broader audience.”
Coates’ book Between the World and Me (available to order here) published by One World, is a New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award winner, and Pulitzer Prize finalist. First published in 2015, it is written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son and recounts the author’s experiences growing up in Baltimore’s inner city and his growing fear of daily violence against the Black community. The narrative explores Coates’ bold notion that American society structurally supports white supremacy.
The stage adaptation based on Between the World and Me was originally performed in 2018 as a limited engagement at the Apollo Theater and the Kennedy Center, with encore performances at the Apollo Theater and again in Atlanta in 2019. Kamilah Forbes, a close friend of Coates, is featured in the book as “Aunt Kamilah” and was immediately inspired to adapt Coates’ work to the stage after reading it. The pair met at Howard University, a pivotal time in both of their lives that has been a continued source of creativity and inspiration. Watson, also a Howard alum, participated in the staged reading at the Apollo and Kennedy Center.
Between the World and Me will be directed by Kamilah Forbes who also serves as executive producer; executive produced by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Susan Kelechi Watson; produced by Roger Ross Williams. Williams’ production company ONE STORY UP produces.
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Susan Kelechi Watson are also executive producers for the adaptation. Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams is producing. It will also incorporate documentary footage from the actors’ home life, archival footage, and animation. The special will be produced under COVID-19 guidelines. Between the World and Me will be available on HBO and to stream on HBO Max.
(Photo Credits: Getty Images)