The New Edition and Bobby Brown story amazed by not only pulling in top cable ratings upon its multi-part premieres but featured incredible, possible award-nominated, performances. The success has reassured faith with Black culture that BET has the music biopic lane in hand with the artists’ best interest. Now two-for-two, BET has secured a lane of possibilities to produce more legends stories. So, the only question left is, who’s next?
Well BET, here is a list of our ideas:
1. Anita Baker
Possible Lead: Jennifer Hudson
If BET was looking to produce a female singer biopic next, Grammy-winning icon Anita Baker would be a significant step in a new direction for the network. It remains in the 80s-90s centric time-period, which BET has done with New Edition and Bobby Brown, and Anita held her own during that time period while facing off against a stacked R&B genre of stars in they’re prime like Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. Anita did beat out Whitney for a Grammy.
Jennifer Hudson seems like a natural selection to bring Anita to the small screen. Hudson is possibly the only R&B singer/actress that can recreate Baker’s contralto vocal range. Her Dreamgirls performance is a testament of that hands down. All Hudson would need is an exceptional supporting cast and allow her voice to lead the way.
The film could be narrated periodically through her chart-history. Have viewers be hypnotized by seeing the recordings or performances of Baker’s iconic hits like “Sweet Love,” “Giving You the Best That I Got,” and “Body and Soul.”
Not much is known of Anita Baker outside of music; however, based on her catalog, it would be intriguing to see the hardships of love that she endured and how it was put into the music. Building an even stronger connection between the 8-time Grammy award-winner.
Possible Lead: Lakeith Stanfield
Late 90s R&B sex symbol D’Angelo had some of the biggest moments in the genre that makes for great television. He was the King of R&B with a timeless debut. Similar to Bobby Brown, D’Angelo fell from grace due to the fast life that comes with fame. Also similar to Bobby, D’Angelo has a rise, fall, and rise again story that R&B fans would enjoy reliving.
If you are a fan of Donald Glover/Childish Gambino’s Atlanta, you are very familiar with Lakeith’s multi-layered acting skills. He may not have the vocals of the “Brown Sugar” singer, but that can be managed with lip-synching easily. Stanfield can easily fill into the mystery that surrounded D’Angelo as he is often awkward and mysterious on screen. D’Angelo being a sex symbol, the biopic would definitely be an edgy approach for BET, then again, they just showed Bobby Brown sleeping with three women while writing the Ghostbuster’s hit.
D’Angelo’s story could also be a possible gateway into the classic Neo-Soul era of music that introduced the Jill Scotts, Erykah Badus, and Musiq Soulchilds.
3. Bell Biv Devoe (BBD)
Possible Lead: Keith Powers, Elijah Kelley, Bryshere Gray
With the New Edition and Bobby Brown story premiering with top ratings, it makes for a convincing argument for BET to have a “New Edition Universe” with a trilogy release of the other offspring in the New Edition break-up. A Bell Biv Devoe biopic could be used as a full circle film that shows not only Mike, Ronnie, and Ricky’s success as the hottest 90s R&B group with hits like “Poison,” “When Will I See You Smile Again,” and “Do Me,” but infuse more backstory of the mingles of each member as the others worked on breakout albums. Similar to what was shown in the Bobby Brown Story with appearances from Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, and Johnny Gill throughout the two parts. While the Bell Biv Devoe story wouldn’t be as long as New Edition and Bobby, it would still be intriguing to watch with Mike’s success as an Executive, Ricky’s drug use, and Ronnie’s attempts to survive.
The biopic would also give Keith Powers (Ronnie), Elijah Kelley (Ricky), and Bryshere (Mike) another opportunity to shine as they did on the New Edition Story. In the Bell Biv Devoe biopic, we can possibly see other unknown situations like the group’s beef with New Kids on The Block.
With fans already having an invested relationship in the actors from the previous stories, a third film will definitely deliver another top-rated project and a great finale in the group from Boston’s iconic career. It would also be the safest bet for BET to follow up the two recent releases.
4. Rick James
Possible Lead: Donald Glover
Rick James has one of the most compelling stories in music. While his story does have the potential to be a theatrical release, it makes sense to play it safe and release on the small screen. While it would be headed to the small screen, it would be a big budget creation to maintain the integrity that New Edition and Bobby Brown has left. There is no one better to pull off the Rick James story better than Donald Glover.
The story is just too compelling and complicated to have just anyone in new Hollywood capture. Atlanta provides the reel of emotional diversity that Glover can carry, along with his blockbuster resume. A Rick James lead role embodies a unique passion and borderline insanity that Glover can deliver with his diverse vocal abilities.
The story needs a major lead to draw attention. Glover is able to tap into that level of genius that made Rick James an R&B pioneering singer/songwriter. The biopic should focus more on the shock value than the music, but it would still be an excellent piece for the Network to catalog for their portfolio.
5. Luther Vandross
Possible Lead: Ruben Studdard
The possible reason this film hasn’t happened yet is due to there not being an actor who could convincingly embody Luther Vandross. Still, if BET were looking to challenge themselves and dive deep into the soul of R&B, then Luther would surely be a perfect choice. Luther had a beautiful voice but definitely battled a lot of adversities and identity throughout his music career.
The film would be best developed by the history of hits that Vandross had accumulated. The film would have to be really pushed by the promotion for it to be a real must-see for viewers. There would have to be celebrities behind the music interviews, award performances, etc. A lot of marketing than what was done with New Edition and Bobby Brown.
But it all starts with the casting, and the only person we currently have on our radar is Ruben Studdard. Luther is Studdard’s number one idol. In addition, Studdard has a comparing velvety tone like Luther, he even released a Luther tribute album, but our only drawback is if The Velvet Teddy Bear act!
6. Paula Abdul
Possible Lead: Dania Ramirez
While brief, Paula Abdul’s music career had a moment in the 90s that hasn’t been able to be re-created by a dancer-turned-singer in two decades. Along with her music, Paula had several high-profile relationships in the 90s that could be explored with everything back then being more discreet. A great night of dancing that can be relived on the small screen for the 90s babies brought to you by BET.
Dania Ramirez (Once Upon a Time) may not be known for her dance moves, but she has the look and acting chops to replay the history of the dancer/singer/TV personality. Choreography shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the actress. An impressive supporting cast can drive the biopic home.
BET can take the opportunity to attract not only its core audience but the Latin culture as well.
Possible Lead: Jussie Smollett, Tahj Mowry, Rotimi, Sarunas J Jackson, Kristinia DeBarge
DeBarge had a look, style, and sound that could never be replicated. The five-person group was at the center of a lot of 90s R&B’s biggest names as the Bobby Brown Story mentioned. The surprise marriage of Janet Jackson and James DeBarge was a first for headlines involving R&B. Not to mention, the hidden annulment between the two like the marriage never happened. Known for their hits, DeBarge is also known for the playboy lifestyle and heavy drug use that would be the fall of the group.
This biopic would be a massive project for the network, having to put together a great cast of actors with great chemistry to play the group members. El DeBarge would be a big responsibility for Jussie Smollett. However, he is the only actor with the vocal abilities, hair, and acting ability to shine.
A great campaign for the biopic would be casting DeBarge daughter Kristinia DeBarge for the female lead in the group; making the biopic more personally invested to be great. The opportunity would be great looks on the resume for Tia and Tamera Mowry’s brother Tahj Mowry (Smart Guy), Rotimi (Power), and Insecure’s Sarunas J Jackson.
BET’s involvement in the biopic would clarify that the network can deliver the same success with any R&B act like they have done with New Edition and Bobby Brown. Another great night of sing-alongs as we relive the making of hits like, “Rhythm of the Night” and “All This Love.”
Possible Lead: Jay Ellis, Ne-Yo, Y’lan Noel
The 90s was all about the New Jack Swing. It was the soundtrack to one of the most iconic black films in history with New Jack City and it was a new era of R&B that helped evolve acts like Bobby Brown and any R&B act coming out of New York during the 90s. The creators of that were the young Teddy Riley and Guy.
Coming out of New York City, it would definitely be a change in scenery for BET as the majority of the New Edition and Bobby Brown biopics took place in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Boston. New York had a vibe, style, and energy that was nothing R&B had ever seen before or felt before, ditching the bubble gum for that harder-edge dance.
Mainly focusing on the 90s, Insecure’s Jay Ellis, Ne-Yo, and Y’lan Noel would deliver credible resemblance of the trio of Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall, and Timmy Gatling. Enlisting Ne-Yo as Aaron Hall, Y’lan as Teddy, and Jay Ellis as Timmy. BET could capitalize on the popularity of Jay Ellis and Y’lan Noel and their respective Daniel and Lawrence Hives to draw huge numbers to the biopic. Jay Ellis already has a relationship with BET being apart of The Game cast.
Aside from Ne-Yo, Jay and Y’lan are some of Hollywood’s buzzing Black actors that fit the ideal look and from a promotional standpoint, makes sense for all parties involved.
Possible Lead: Logan Browning
Sade is one of R&B’s national treasures. Her music has bridged the gap of generations since her 1982 arrival. Other than her music, Sade has been a mystery, allowing her music to speak for her and keeping out of the tabloids for over three decades. Her mystique alone would draw in millions of die-hard viewers eager to learn any of the unknowns about the award-winning singer.
Dear White People’s Logan Browning is a phenomenal multi-dimensional actress that can deliver an incredible performance of the British singer. Easily resembling the “Smooth Operator” hitmaker, the story would be similar to the New Edition film and be amazing to see and sing-a-long to all of Sade’s hits and seeing the makings of Diamond Life, Stronger Than Pride, and Love Deluxe.
With the right direction, it can easily be BET’s biggest premiere due to Sade’s generational fanbase.
Possible Lead: Saweetie
Yes, Lifetime tarnished the image of one of the most celebrated R&B songstress of a generation. However, in the hands of BET, could an official Aaliyah biopic erase the first tragedy? New Edition and Bobby Brown is proof they know how to navigate the story of greatness. Casting Aaliyah, Lifetime did have the right direction in casting a brand new face and BET should do the same.
Give a new rising star the responsibility to bring the superstar back to life. “Icy Girl” recording artist Saweetie has the look, swagger, and sex appeal that could deliver a promising performance. Now, this biopic would focus on the music but would need an all-star cast to support the lead. Credible supporting cast to remake Timberland, Missy, R. Kelly, Dame Dash, and Aaliyah’s brother and mother. BET would also have to be unafraid to dive into and reveal the truth of Aaliyah’s infamous marriage with Kelly.
Tackling this responsibility so soon after two previous biopics would be a very bold move by the network. But it could be a move that would impress viewers and solidify anticipation to watch the night of the premiere. Aaliyah’s die-hard fanbase would make it easier to promote and make the film cost-efficient. Similar to the Bobby Brown Story, the biopic would have to include a huge reveal like the Janet/Bobby sexual escapade. The making of this would only work if BET followed up their two for two with this high-profile production.
By Bryson “Boom” Paul