Friday, March 6, 2015

Asali Solomon's "Disgruntled"

Asali Solomon is an assistant professor of English at Haverford College. Get Down, her first book, earned her a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, was chosen as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” for 2007, and was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

Here Solomon dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Disgruntled:
The reason I love the hypothetical movie Disgruntled is because it has extremely plum roles for African American actors, and I’m hoping the studio will go with one of the wide array of talented Black directors. I cannot decide between them though – Ava DuVernay, Gina Prince-Bythewood and Dee Rees would all be amazing. Or Ernest Dickerson. My friend Jason Moran could do the score.

The trickiest role to cast, also the most important one, is Kenya Curtis, who begins the book as a seven year-old, and ends it in her late teens. I really can’t cast that seven year-old role. That’s an open call. Of course, there’s Quvenzhan√© Wallis, who I think is a wonderful actor, but I want someone who seems sadder. So my suggestion for older Kenya is someone who has probably aged out: Camille Winbush, who used to be the older sister on The Bernie Mac Show, would be awesome.

There are some other people, who I think have aged out of where I want them, like Raven Goodwin, who would have been great for Amandla about ten years ago.

Back to the principals. I thought a lot about Sheila, because again, there are some actresses who are absolutely ideal, but the age thing is tricky. Khandi Alexander, who was amazing on Treme has the Sheila “it.” Niecey Nash, who is so wonderful on Getting On on HBO has it. But by the time we get the financing and script for this movie, it might have to be Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne on The Walking Dead. She’s beautiful and probably has a great death stare. She’d have to read the scene where Johnbrown makes his sketchy proposition to Sheila and Sheila rebuffs. That will take a kind of down-and-dirty energy that I haven’t seen her give yet. But wait, I totally forgot Regina King! I love me some Regina King. It’s yours, Regina King.

It occurs to me that I’m casting my film entirely with actors mainly associated with television. But I think that says something dire about access to film roles for Black actors, rather than about my casting desires.

So more TV: Teddy Jaffrey is clearly Mike Colter, who plays Lemond Bishop on The Good Wife. All shiny surfaces. One thing though, in his audition, he’ll have to show that he can play somebody not together at all. (On a sidenote, I have been meaning to lobby CBS to give Lemond Bishop a spinoff show called Bishop. People will have almost forgotten that this will be a slight ripoff of The Wire, as Bishop is a slight ripoff of Stringer Bell, but it will be a show about very successful drug dealer trying to catapult his son into the Kennedy post-boot-legging class, get rich and get out of the game before it catches up to him.)

Cindalou can be offered to Carmen Ejogo, who was so lovely in Selma. She’ll have to gain some weight, though, and look less like a movie star in general, so that the early scenes are not so overdetermined. Sharon can be played by Charlize Theron. She needs to act very American though.

Lonette McKee can play Grandmama. And as a sidenote, can I say that if you’re researching this kind of thing, there is actually a web page called “Best Light Skin Celebrities.” (The Internet is scary).

I don’t quite know how to handle the butler and his wife. Perhaps the butler should be played by the same person who plays Johnbrown.

Johnbrown, oh, Johnbrown. Jeffrey Wright ten years ago. Anthony Mackie right now. Michael B. Jordan – ten years from now. This person probably has the hardest role in the movie. But this budget is small. He’ll have to do it for love.
Learn more about Disgruntled, and visit Asali Solomon's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue