Spike Lee partnering with Roger Guenver Smith for ‘Frederick Douglass Now’ movie
President Donald Trump’s much-derided statement that abolitionist Frederick Douglass “is being recognized more and more” is actually proving true, with filmmaker Spike Lee set to direct a movie on the historical figure.
Lee is set to direct the movie adaption of “Frederick Douglass Now,” the one-man play by Roger Guenver Smith, who has starred in 10 of Lee’s movies.
Douglass, a Maryland native, was a former slave who went on to become a noted antislavery advocate, speaker and newspaper publisher. He spoke out in favor of abolition before Abraham Lincoln did so and also was a noted feminist. Douglass is buried in Rochester, N.Y., where he published the North Star.
Smith’s one-man play opens with him rapping a mash-up of slavery references and contemporary life in America, Variety reports. From there, the show moves to Smith quoting parts of Douglass’ essays and letters. In the show’s finale, Smith sings, “If there is no progress, Frederick Douglass is still alive,” according to Variety.
The show is a labor of love for Smith, who began working on “Frederick Douglass Now” when he was an undergrad at Occidental College in Los Angeles, according to Variety. In the 20 years since he first created it, he’s been updating and sharpening, the news organization reports.
Additional star power set to take part in the project will come from jazz artist Branford Marsalis along with Marc Anthony Thompson, the composer who worked with Smith and Lee for “Rodney King” and A Huey P. Newton Story.
The film will be produced by Buffalo8, a company based in Santa Monica, Calif., founded eight years ago. Buffalo8 also worked on Rodney King.
Lee’s production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, is based in Brooklyn. Lee, whose given name is Shelton Jackson Lee, has produced more than 35 films.