Despite family wishes and an onslaught of criticism, Lifetime is pressing on with its upcoming Aaliyah biopic. The network has just revealed a brief teaser of the made-for-TV movie, entitled Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. The film will chronicle the life and death of the esteemed R&B singer, who died in a plane crash in 2001. You can check out the new clip here.
Viewers have noted that Nickelodeon star Alexandra Shipp makes for a convincing Aaliyah in the 15-second promo, despite having initially been under fire for her dissimilar appearance. However, many fans are still outraged that Lifetime is moving forward without blessings from the late artist’s family. In fact, the project has been so controversial that the original actress cast for the role, Zendaya Coleman, backed out of the production in late June. Coleman, a Disney Channel alumnus, stated that the choice was not related to the criticism she received over her portrayal of the star, but rather the film’s lack of production value, song rights, and family approval.
Aaliyah’s uncle and former manager, Barry Hankerson, has spoken out about the family’s anger that no one from Lifetime contacted them about the movie. He also stated they were working with a lawyer to block the network’s attempts to use any of Aaliyah’s music and halt the production.
His son and Aaliyah’s cousin, Jomo Hankerson, also made the family’s disapproval clear to the press. “We are exploring our options, we don’t know exactly what all of the recourse is, but we are talking to our lawyers. We definitely know that we won’t be contributing any original music, they will not be able to use any of her vocals or anything that we created during the process of her career,” he explained. “We always thought her life and career was legendary and something would come along that would be right. I really don’t understand how this is a biopic when you don’t talk to me or my father and we released every record that she ever recorded, so there’s definitely some credibility issues.” In July, Aaliyah’s family also announced they would be producing an official film separate from Lifetime’s made-for-TV special. This family-approved version will hit theatres in late 2015, and will feature tracks recorded by Aaliyah.
Despite the family’s wishes, Lifetime has chosen to move forward with the project. Television host Wendy Williams is serving as the executive producer for the highly-debated film. Actors who will be joining Shipp in the cast include Lyriq Bent, Rachael Crawford, Anthony Grant, Sterling Jarvis, A.J. Saudin, and Jesse Sukunda. Additionally, Chattrisse Dolabaille will play Missy Elliott, alongside Izaak Smith as Timbaland. Aaliyah: Princess of R&B is set to premiere Saturday, November 15th on Lifetime.