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Nelsan Ellis Will Play Bobby Byrd - James Brown’s Friend & Musical Collaborator - In Biopic

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act October 21, 2013 at 8:01PM

Universal has set the theatrical release date for its James Brown biopic, titled Get On Up, for Friday, October 17, 2014.
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Nelsan Ellis - Bobby Byrd

Universal has set the theatrical release date for its James Brown biopic, titled Get On Up, for FridayOctober 172014.

Chadwick Boseman is playing Brown in the Tate Taylor-directed film.

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer will reunite with their The Help director, to take supporting roles in the film, playing Susie Brown, James Brown's mother, and his aunt, Anne Tunney, respectively.

True Blood star, Nelsan Ellis, was previously rumored to be in director Taylor's sights for a supporting role, with no confirmation of that until today, as Deadline reports that the actor has signed up to play Bobby Byrd, James Brown’s longtime friend and musical collaborator.

Byrd was one of the founders of The Famous Flames, who brought James Brown into the band and together, they made history with a string of hits up to the 1970s. Later he would join Brown again with vocals on several recordings like Sex Machine, Talkin' Loud & Saying Nothin' and Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved. He would also go on and record solo hits of his own, notably I Know You Got Soul.

Bobby Byrd, who battled cancer, passed away on September 12th, 2007. He was 73 years old.

Shooting on the project begins this fall, with Brian Grazer producing alongside Mick Jagger, for Universal Pictures.

Taylor plans to shoot the film in Mississippi, including filming at the Mississippi Coliseum on the state fairgrounds, where Brown performed a concert in February 1969. 

This is a film that Spike Lee was previously long-attached to direct, but was replaced by Tate Taylor earlier this year.

Promising a warts and all telling of Brown's life story on film, the screenplay was penned by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (they wrote the script for Fair Game, the Naomi Watts and Sean Penn film).


This should definitely be a plump role for Nelsan Ellis, given Byrd's relationship with and involvement in James Brown's life and career.

In the video clip below, watch both Brown and Byrd perform live on TV in 1971:

This article is related to: Nelsan Ellis


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