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Controversy leads Zendaya to opt out of Aaliyah biopic film

Zendaya performs at the Hollister House on June 25, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Hollister)
Photo by Michael Buckner

Just two weeks after Lifetime Network announced that actress Zendaya Coleman has landed the role of Aaliyah in the upcoming biopic film about the late R&B star’s life, the network is now in search of a new actress for the role. According to the Associated Press Sunday, Zendaya has pulled out of the film.

The Disney Channel star was thrilled about Aaliyah in the upcoming film, but backlash from the “Try Again” singer’s family has proved to be too much for the 17-year-old actress. The family is not participating in the project scheduled to film this summer, but were very vocal about the production. Lifetime confirmed Zendaya’s choice to leave the film via Twitter saying, “We are sad Zendaya will no longer portray Aaliyah. Production is currently on hold.”

Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah’s cousin and president of her label Blackground Records, voiced that the family believed that a TV movie did the late R&B princess no justice. On behalf of the family, he told the New York Daily News that they wanted a bigger release and an A-list actress to play the role.

He said, “We want a major studio release along the lines of ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It,’ the Tina Turner movie. This needs A-list actors, A-list talent that can breathe life into what we think is a phenomenal story.”

Hankerson clarified that the family’s backlash against the TV movie had nothing to do with the casting of Zendaya. The family also announced plans to consult with a lawyer to block Lifetime from using “any of the music, or any of the photographs and videos” that they own. The network faced similar backlash from the family of Whitney Houston in regards to an upcoming biopic executive produced by Angela Basset. Houston’s family also felt the late star should have a bigger release.

As production has ceased, it is now unclear as to when the TV movie titled “Aaliyah: Princess of R&B” will premiere. Lifetime will be searching for another actress to play the role if indeed they decide to continue with the project. Zendaya was scheduled to record four songs for the film.