Four major ensemble cast productions – two film musicals, one TV series and one race relations feature – have all added a bunch of new names to their ranks today.
“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins’ Amazon series based on Colson Whitehead’s book “The Underground Railroad” has settled on its leads – Thuso Mbedu is Cora, Chase W. Dillon is Homer, and Aaron Pierre is Caesar. Jenkins helms all eleven episodes of the series which chronicles young Cora’s journey as she escapes her Georgia plantation. Making a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South, she discovers the actual secret railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a network of tracks and tunnels beneath the soil.
Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of classic musical “West Side Story” continues with over forty performers set as rival street gangs The Sharks and The Jets. Leading the Jets as Riff is Mike Faist, Puerto Rican singer Ana Isabelle will play Rosalia, while Maddie Ziegler (“Dance Moms”) plays part of the Jets. The Sharks and Jets appear in several of West Side Story’s most iconic song and dance scenes.
Daphne Rubin-Vega (“Smash”) is Daniela, Stephanie Beatriz (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) is Carla and Dascha Polanco (“Orange is the New Black”) is Cuca in the upcoming film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical “In the Heights”. The Jon Chu-directed movie is set in New York’s Washington Heights, and centers on bodega owner Usnavi (Ramos), who has mixed feelings about closing his store and retiring to the Dominican Republic after inheriting his grandmother’s fortune.
Finally, Jena Malone (“The Neon Demon”), Jack Huston (“Ben-Hur”), Kiersey Clemons (“Dope”) and Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”) will join Janelle Monae in the lead in Lionsgate’s recently announced untitled race relations feature. Eric Lange, Tongayi Chirisa, Robert Aramayo and Lily Cowles will also star in the film in which Monae plays a woman “desperately trying to flee her captors, leading her on a perilous journey causing her to question everything about her past, present and future.”