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Alexandra Shipp is Lifetime’s new Aaliyah; Zendaya speaks out

A month after actress and singer Zendaya Coleman dropped out of the role of Aaliyah in the made-for-TV-Lifetime biopic, the network has found a replacement to play the late R&B star. On Friday, talk show host Wendy Williams, one the film’s executive producers, announced that Nickelodeon star Alexandra Shipp has been cast in the role.

Alexandra Shipp of Nickelodeon's House of Anubis attends 2012 Children's BAFTA Awards at Hilton Park Lane on November 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn McCormack/Getty Images For Nickelodeon)
Photo by Eamonn McCormack

The announcement was made via Twitter, and comes after Shipp hinted at the news earlier this month. Williams tweeted, “I’m excited to exec produce the Aaliya @lifetimetv movie w/@DebraMChase. Prod starts later this monthand@AlexShipppp will play Aaliyah.” Shipp, who is most know for her role on Nickelodeon’s “House of Anubis” is excited about the casting, but so was Zendaya before controversy surrounded the film.

Zendaya dropped out of the film after she received backlash from being cast in the role. Aaliyah’s family has also been very vocal about the film, believing that the late star deserves to have a movie about her life produced by a major studio. In understanding this, the Disney star said in a statement that she left the role because she felt that there were things missing from the project. She said “I feel like if I’m going to portray one of my idols…it has to be done right. It just wasn’t a good choice for me.”

She also clarified that she didn’t drop out because of haters who believed she wasn’t black enough or talented enough to play the role. She added that she did try to reach out to the family and was unable to do so. Because of this she didn’t feel “morally okay with moving forward with the project.”

The sudden development temporarily ceased production, but now that Lifetime has cast Shipp, production of the biopic film, “Aaliyah: Princess of R&B,” is set to resume and the premiere is set for this fall on the network. Alexandra Shipp has also made appearances on MTV’s “Awkward” as well as the Showtime hit series “Ray Donovan.”