Spike Lee is set to direct Roger Guenveur Smith’s next film, Frederick Douglass Now, as first reported by Variety.
Frederick Douglass was an American escaped slave-turned-Abolitionist leader in the 1800s. He is widely regarded as one of the most remarkable civil rights reformers in the history of the United States.
Frederick Douglass Now will mark the latest collaboration between Lee and Smith, who has acted in 10 of Lee’s movies, beginning with the auteur’s second feature, School Daze (1988). Smith’s most beloved Spike Lee joint roles include Smiley in Do The Right Thing (1989) and Rudy in Malcolm X (1992).
The movie will be Lee’s third cinematic adaptation of Smith’s one-man stage shows, after A Huey P. Newton Story (2001) and Rodney King (2017), which Netflix acquired last year.
Smith’s one-man show on Douglass was conceived over 20 years ago, and has been regularly modernized and reconstructed ever since. The performance features Smith’s original rap music with references to both slavery and modern life in the U.S. The hour-plus monologue also includes excerpts from Douglass’ original essays and letters.
Lee’s film adaptation will be incorporate music from jazz artist Branford Marsalis and Smith’s longtime collaborator Marc Anthony Thompson, the composer for A Huey P. Newton Story and Rodney King.