When I think of Josephine Baker, my mind goes to HBO’s The Josephine Baker Story, which taught me just how much of a badass she was. Miss Baker was the Beyoncé of the 1920s. She made the banana skirt iconic. Baker’s story is one that needs to be immortalized onscreen, again. She went through four marriages (she did it first, Elizabeth Taylor) and adopted 12 kids (talk about inspiring the Jolie-Pitts) and she was even a freaking French spy during Word War II. Lynn Whitfield was transcendent in the 1991 biopic, but it’s time to share the legend of Ms. Baker with a whole new generation and that’s exactly why LeBron James’s production company has announced that they’re developing a limited series following the jazz icon.
Ruth Negga is attached to star in the series titled Josephine, and that’s what I call perfect casting. Talk about a dead ringer for Josephine Baker. It helps that we’ve already come to know Ruth with short hair, reminiscent of some of Ms. Baker’s most memorable looks, but she also has those eyes that draw you in. Wide, luminous windows into a soulful layered woman. I guess what remains to be seen is how Ruth will embody the physicality and spirit of Josephine, because that’s such a huge part. She was a performer, a sex symbol, an icon of Black womanhood and oh so larger than life. The project is being described by Deadline as “a raw and unflinching look at the force of nature that was Josephine Baker… [delving] into the raw talent, sexual fluidity, struggles and bold life of an icon.”
Ruth’s profile has risen in recent years with sensitive characters, like her Oscar-nominated role in 2017’s Loving, which tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose arrest for interracial marriage in the 1960s led to a supreme court battle. This year, she’s starring in Rebecca Hall’s Netflix film Passing, about two childhood friends, both biracial, one of whom, when they’re adults, lives as a white woman. She wants to use her talents to showcase the beautiful vulnerability of Black women — vulnerability not often allowed space in film and TV. I’d also say from the results of Loving and the buzz surrounding Passing, Negga shines in these roles and I can’t wait to see how she pushes herself creatively with Josephine.