Two-time Oscar winner and former rapper Mahershala Ali will star as boxer Jack Johnson in new HBO limited series, Unruly.
What We Know:
- Ali will be an executive producer of the limited series with Tom Hanks, under his production company and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Ali also played Johnson in a 2000 revival of the play The Great White Hope as the world’s first Black Heavyweight Boxing Champion.
- The limited series will about the unapologetically Black telling of Jack Johnson. Johnson is the so-called “Galveston Giant,” according to Collider, who rose to greatness and became the world’s first Black Heavyweight Boxing Champion (1908-1915). It also depicts the boxer’s rise to athletic greatness and the cost he paid for his skin and defiance.
- Unruly will be based on Burns’ PBS documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson and the book written by Geoffrey C. Ward.
- In multiple interviews, Ali has stated that playing Johnson is his “dream role.” Ali’s wife, Amatus Karim Ali, and their producing partner, Mimi Valdes, will also be producing alongside him. Hanks’ producing partner Gary Goetzman will jump on the project as well. Beau Willimon, creator of House of Cards, will co-executive produce.
- Johnson was one of the world’s greatest boxers. He was a Black man living in a white world, and people often told him how he should live; this made him a target for those who hated him.
- He married a white woman, three times and was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1912 for marrying a white woman because it was seen as being against his nature. The jury took less than two hours to convict him of the crime, and the decision ruined his career.
Ali currently plays in the Hulu series, Ramy. He says, “I really just want the opportunity to go on the hero’s journey. I’ve never done that.” Untruly will be Ali’s second HBO series, following his role in the third season of True Detective in 2019.