Ron Cephas Jones, Gary Carr and Hubert Point-Du Jour are joining the cast of the Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. anthology series Genius: MLK/X as series regular.
Lennie James, LisaGay Hamilton, Ashley Romans, Donal Logue, and Griffin Matthews will recur in the series. The above join previously cast Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Aaron Pierre as MLK and X and Weruche Opia and Jayme Lawson Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz.
Channing Godfrey Peoples is directing the pilot based on a script by Jeff Stetson.
Genius: MLK/X showrunners and executive producers Raphael Jackson, Jr. and Damione Macedon set out to explore the formative years, pioneering accomplishments, dueling philosophies, and key personal relationships of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Harrison Jr.) and Malcolm X (Pierre). While King advanced racial equality through nonviolent protest, Malcolm X argued forcefully for Black empowerment, identity and self-determination. With their formidable wives, Coretta Scott King (Opia) and Betty Shabazz (Lawson), by their sides, King and Malcolm X became synonymous with the civil rights era and the fight for racial and economic justice. While they met only once and often challenged each other’s views, neither would have been as successful without the other.
Cephas Jones will play Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Powerful, confident, and complicated, he is a teacher and mentor of Malcolm X and referred to humbly all members of the NOI as “The Honorable One”.
Carr is Clyde X, an official at Temple Number 7 in Harlem and Elijah Muhammad’s trusted confidant. Clyde is the eyes and ears in NYC, a position he is deeply proud of. Clyde’s history is one crowded in mystery, stints in prison and time in the army only help to cast a shadow of a man who carries a menacing presence. But one thing that is clear is his deep loyalty to the Nation of Islam and his leader, the honorable Elijah Muhammad. Clyde is impressed but also secretly jealous of Malcolm X’s success and especially of Elijah’s trust and love for him. Clyde likes consistency and order. Challenges to the chain of command disturb him.
Point-Du Jour is Ralph Abernathy, a Baptist minister and Civil Rights leader in the sixties. Ralph is a man of principle with a deeply rooted sense of justice.
James recurs as Daddy King aka Dr. Michael King, Martin Luther King’s father. A preacher at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia in the year 1934, he is an imposing figure, fiery, impassioned, and inspiring.
Hamilton plays Alberta King, Martin Luther King Jr’s mother, the “First Lady” of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Gifted, loving, skilled, and wise, she is a constant source of strength to the King family. Romans portrays Ella Mae, Malcolm’s half-sister. Logue plays Strom Thurmond, an American politician, decorated military officer, attorney, and former South Carolina governor who then represented South Carolina in the United States Senate starting in 1954.
Matthews portrays Bayard Rustin. He is a trusted adviser to the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. since the days of the Montgomery bus boycott, and helps plan the March on Washington serving as the Deputy Director of the march. Inspired by Quaker pacifism with socialism and the theory of non-violent protest, Rustin combines these threads into his own personal and working philosophy. In his own right, Rustin is a civil rights lion who is impeccably dressed in pressed pastel Oxford slacks, perfectly creased, with a pair of horn-rimmed eyeglasses, and yet there’s something quiet intimidating about him.
Principal photography on the series comes from 20th Television, Imagine Television and Reggie Rock Bythewood and Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Undisputed Cinema.
Several historians and experts have come on board as production consultants prior to the start of the writers room to guide the narrative. Here are the historians and experts (in alphabetical order) who helped with Genius: MLK/X:
• Jamal Joseph (Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention), formerly a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, is a writer, director and professor of professional practice at Columbia University School of the Arts in the film department.
• Peniel E. Joseph is a writer whose book, The Sword and The Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., serves as inspiration for the series and serves as a consultant.
• Michele Norris is a columnist and consultant for Post Opinions and founding director of Peabody Award-winning The Race Card Project.
• Dr. Kameelah Rashad is the founder and president of the Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healing and emotional well-being in the American Muslim community.
• Dr. Barbara Reynolds is an award-winning journalist, author and minister who penned several books, including Jesse Jackson, America’s David and No, I Won’t Shut Up: 30 Years of Telling It Like It Is, with a foreword by Coretta Scott King.
• Ambassador Shabazz, producer, writer, diplomat and eldest daughter of Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X Shabazz, also serves as consulting producer for the series.
• Jeff Stetson, whose play The Meeting serves as inspiration for the series, is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter for film and television. He also penned the pilot for MLK/X and serves as an executive producer on the series.
• Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at City University of New York, is the author or co-author of eleven books and numerous articles on the civil rights and Black Power movements.
• Pastor Michael A. Walrond, Jr., senior pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church, received numerous honors, accolades and recognitions, including induction into Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers.
“We wanted to assemble a consortium of scholars and experts who can not only lend their extensive knowledge, expertise and research but also create a space for meaningful debate and discussion to ensure an honest portrayal of the complexities of these iconic geniuses. The legacies of Martin and Malcolm are critical to our understanding of the social justice movements of today, so we had to get this right. We could not have asked for a more incredible group to guide us through their stories,” added the Bythewoods.
Peoples is co-executive producing Genius: MLK/X alongside. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard executive produce For Imagine Television. For Undisputed Cinema, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Gina Prince-Bythewood and Francie Calfo are executive producers. Jackson Jr. and Macedon are also executive producers. For MWM Studios, Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane serve as executive producers. For EUE/Sokolow, Sam Sokolow is executive producer. Stetson is also an executive producer. Godfrey Peoples is a co-executive producer. Ambassador Shabazz serves as consulting producer.
This is the second project Harrison Jr. and Pierre are working together on. Both wills tar in Barry Jenkin’s prequel of Disney’s The Lion King, titled, “The Lion King: Mufasa.’ Harrison Jr. will voice the role of Scar and Pierre will voice of Mufasa