By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Sterling K. Brown has won both critical and industry acclaim for his role in the NBC television series “This Is Us” since 2016, and also for his portrayal of attorney Christopher Darden in the FX mini-series “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.” Brown has won Emmy awards in both roles, and also recently concluded production on the independent fim “Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul.” But he’s now set to portray a legendary attorney.
A Hollywood Reporter story this week says Searchlight Pictures has acquired the script rights to “The Defender.” George Tillman Jr. will be the director. Brown will portray defense lawyer and activist Scipio Africanus Jones, whose role in fighting injustice began during the early portion of the 20th century.
Jones got involved after the Elaine, Arkansas race riot and massacre of 1919. He ignored death threats and the potential descrution of his legal career to take the case of 87 men wrongfully accused of murder. A film about Jones and his heroic actions has been in the works for many years. This current production, which was picked up after a competition, was written by E. Nicholas Mariani and was part of the 2018 Black List selection.
Tillman Jr. recently produced and directed “The Hate U Give” for Fox 2000 Pictures, based on the novel by Angela Thomas. Brown will produce with 21 Laps’ Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen, while Mariani and Danielle Reardon will executive produce with Dantram Nguyen and Katie Goodson-Thomas. Richard Ruiz will oversee for Searchlight.
21 Laps currently has the Disney box office hit Free Guy in theaters, which has grossed over $325 million worldwide. Ben Wilkinson, vice president of business affairs, negotiated the deal for Searchlight Pictures, along with WME and CAA acting for the filmmakers.