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Who Will Play Thurgood Marshall In 'Devil In The Grove' Big Screen Adaptation?

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 17, 2013 9:30 PM
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Another historical drama centered on the lives of black people - this one set in Jim Crow south.

Per Deadline, Lionsgate has acquired screen rights to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Devil In The Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, And The Dawn Of A New America, by Gilbert King.

Adam Cooper & Bill Collage have been brought on to write the script adaptation, with Allison Shearmur producing.

Set in 1949, with Florida's booming orange industry as a backdrop, as citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor, the novel tells the all-too-familiar story of four young black men falsely accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl, and the NAACP's legal team's attempts to free them.

It was a case that would bring a 40-something-year-old attorney by the name of Thurgood Marshall, into the deadly fray, as his associates thought it was suicidal for him to get involved in this case, at a time when he was considered irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement. Although Marshall wasn't one to back down from a fight - certainly not after the Ku Klux Klan murdered one of his NAACP associates involved with the case, and Marshall himself endured numerous death threats. 

The 4 young black men came to be known as "The Groveland Boys."

Deadline says that the project is a "high priority" at Lionsgate, so expect this to be packaged and ready to roll soon.

Obviously, this will present several opportunities for black actors - most especially, what actor will be cast to play Thurgood Marshall. It could be the kind of role that draws critical attention, and awards season consideration.

Again, Marshall was in his 40s when the story takes place - 41 to be exact. So, we're looking for a black actor who can embody him at that age, on screen. Any recommendations for Lionsgate execs?

Recent actors who've played Marshall include Laurence Fishburne, who returned to the stage in 2008 to star in the Broadway production of Thurgood. HBO aired a filmed version of the The 90-minute play in 2011.

And more recently, Danny Glover plays Thurgood Marshall in Stephen Frears' upcoming Muhammad Ali film for HBO.

But the name that immediately came to mind for me, was Jeffrey Wright. Or an *unknown*, which I think I'd actually prefer.

Who else? 

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  • L | June 18, 2013 11:21 PMReply

    Jeffrey Wright may not be the right height, but his skills are top notch. Harry Lennix certainly has the presence and the stature, but I'd like to see an unknown rise into the role.

  • urbanauteur | June 18, 2013 8:56 PMReply

    Peter Francis James

  • Troy | June 18, 2013 5:48 PMReply

    Christopher Duncan aka Braxton from Jamie Foxx show

  • Mark | June 18, 2013 10:46 PM

    Duncan looks nothing like Marshall.

  • ANTHONY RAYNER | June 18, 2013 12:47 PMReply

    Jeffrey Wright !!

  • BURP | June 18, 2013 11:10 AMReply

    Harry Lennix

  • Sanura Weathers | June 18, 2013 10:19 AMReply

    Besides Wright, if a relatively unknown actor (although, industry insiders know him) is desired, it's definitely Jacinto Taras Riddick. He has a long career of broadway, television and film roles. He's a great character actor. On another note, he has a strong passion about the Civil Rights era (of yesterday and about today's issues).

  • hiveship99 | June 18, 2013 5:53 AMReply

    Someone mentioned him already but I was thinking Jesse Williams as well. He may be a little young as Thrugood was in his early 40s in 1949 but I think he could pull it off.

  • ALM | June 17, 2013 9:58 PMReply

    Jeffrey Wright is the first person who popped into my head also.

  • Geneva Girl | June 18, 2013 3:28 AM

    Wright's name was the first one who popped into my head too.

  • ALM | June 17, 2013 11:09 PM

    Mark, I am more concerned about his performance than his height. By the way, the magic of Hollywood technology can probably make Wright look taller.

  • Mark | June 17, 2013 10:41 PM

    Wright's a great actor but isn't he a bit short to play Marshall?

  • BluTopaz | June 17, 2013 9:45 PMReply

    Although a super talented unknown would be a nice surprise, I would love to see Harry Lennix land this also. He's in his late forties, but I believe he could pull it off and he strikes me as being a "race man", as the old folks say.

  • Mark | June 17, 2013 9:42 PMReply

    Wentworth Miller? He'd be the right age. He's a good actor and is light-skinned like Marshall.

    I'd also go for Jesse Williams but he's a bit young looking to play a 40 year old Marshall.

    Harry Lennix could also fill the bill.

    Yes, skin color does matter for Marshall as much as it did for the casting of Nina Simone. It's laughable that Danny Glover and Sidney Poitier were cast to play Marshall.

  • BluTopaz | June 18, 2013 6:08 AM

    I agree with you about the color issue totally, and think Glover and Poitier playing Marshall was ridiculous. Just being a middle aged Black actor is not enough-lol

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