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Lifetime’s upcoming Aaliyah: Princess of R&B biopic is no longer sailing in smooth waters. On Monday, news broke that the young actress tapped to play the R&B star in the project, Zendaya, has dropped the role. Production on the Lifetime Original Movie is currently on hold at the network.
Just a few days ago, Zendaya (whose last name is Coleman) signed on to the project, which was set to follow Aaliyah’s rise to fame in the nineties before her untimely death in a plane crash in 2001. At the time of Lifetime’s announcement, the network was stating the movie was being shot this summer for a fall premiere. The background for the project would have been the bestselling novel by Christopher Farley, Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, looking at her rise after an appearance on Star Search, as well as her later film work in Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned. Now, the project may not end up coming together at all.
Early reports indicated that Zendaya would be re-recording four of Aaliyah’s famous songs for the TV movie, but that seems to be where the trouble with the project lies. According to E!, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B was on pretty shaky ground. Production issues have been cited as a problem, and Lifetime is reportedly having trouble nabbing the rights to some of Aaliyah’s music. And a musical biopic without music would be far less exciting.
You would think that Lifetime would have all of the logistical issues together before the cable channel signed on a star, but maybe the prospect of attaching Zendaya was too good to miss. The 17-year-old actress shares a lot in common with Aaliyah. Like Aaliyah, Zendaya became a hit name at a pretty young age. While she wasn’t discovered on Star Search, the actress was discovered by Disney, landing a gig on the Disney Channel series Shake it Up and appearing on Dancing with the Stars. She more recently has put out a self-titled solo album and has signed on for new Disney series K.C. Undercover, which is set to premiere in 2015. Like Aaliyah, she is very young. And like Aaliyah, she has dabbled in both acting and music. She could have been a good fit to bring the strong R&B singer to the small screen.
Unfortunately, now it seems that Lifetime will be scrambling to find a new young talent who can step into the role. For now, the project is on hold, but we’ll keep you posted if or when the quirks get settled and a new gal is signed on.