The Selma and Race actor has been tapped to star in Barry Jenkins’ next film, If Beale Street Could Talk. The film, based on James Baldwin’s book of the same name, is, according to Shadow and Act, “a pregnant 19-year-old Harlem woman, named Tish, and her 22-year-old fiancé, Fonny. After he is falsely accused of raping another woman, she, her family and their lawyer work to prove his innocence.” James will play Fonny, and possibly, this could be his biggest role yet.
This will also be another passion project for Jenkins, who has wanted to adapt Beale Street for while, and he wrote the adaptation without the screen rights.
“I said, ‘Well, I’m going to just do exactly what I want to do. I love this book. I love this play. I’m going to write those things, and I’ll f***ing figure it out after,’” he said, as reported by Shadow and Act. “Yeah, I mean, here it is three years later. I still don’t have the rights to the book, as I shouldn’t. Mr. Baldwin’s only been adapted once. This would only be the second time. It’s a big deal. It’s a big responsibility. But because of the success of Moonlight in the marketplace, the estate has seen the film. And I think in that film they can see my intentions with Beale Street, so it’s on the horizon. I don’t have the rights, but it’s on the horizon.”
That was then, this is now: Gloria Karefa-Smart, Baldwin’s sister, has since given her blessing to Jenkins. “We are delighted to entrust Barry Jenkins with this adaptation,” she said. “Barry is a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker, whose Medicine for Melancholy impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him.”