When it was first announced that she had exited the production, I speculated that it may have been due to a number of reasons, including Aaliyah's family's vehement and vocal opposition to the project (they wanted "A-list" talent to star in the film, and were also upset that they weren't consulted by the network on the making of the film), as well as backlash she faced from fans of Aaliyah, over her casting (many saying she wasn't "black enough" for example).
Zendaya decided to address the mystery behind her leaving the project, in an effort to silence all the speculation. She did so over the weekend, releasing a trio of videos on her Instagram page - videos I've embedded below for you to watch.
She has since been replaced by Alexandra Shipp in the role, news that Wendy Williams (who has signed up to executive produce the film) announced last week.
Certainly Alexandra Shipp isn't exactly an "A-list" actor either, is she? Maybe amongst a certain demographic, possibly? So one can only assume that the family still won't be pleased with her casting.
In the videos, Zendaya denies that any of the above reasons I (and others) gave, influenced her decision, stating that "the production value wasn't there, there were complications with the music rights, and I just felt like it wasn't being handled delicately considering the situation."
She went on to say that she actually tried to reach out to Aaliyah's familiar directly, but nothing developed there. And she also wished her replacement (Shipp) all the best, hoping that she doesn't face a similar kind of back-lash that Zendaya herself faced, after her casting was announced.
I'm an old man now, but I can remember being a 16/17 year old; and I can only wonder what it must be like for these young ladies to face such tremendous and incredibly harsh criticism from strangers, practically (tens-of-thousands, and maybe even more of them) who are essentially rooting for your failure. I can only imagine the pressure a kid at that age, in the position she's in, has to shoulder in situations like this.
But, as the saying goes... what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
Based on the bestseller "Aaliyah: More Than a Woman" by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley, the Lifetime Original Movie is to be filmed this summer to be premiered in the Fall.
Howard Braunstein ("The Informant!") and Debra Martin Chase ("The Princess Diaries," "Sparkle") were serving as executive producers.
Bradley Walsh ("Turn the Beat Around") was to direct from a script written by Michael Elliot ("Brown Sugar").
Watch Zendaya's 3 video addresses below: