Big name actors sign on for Book of Negroes production

Greg Bennett
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Shelburne expected to be filming site in April

SHELBURNE - The filming has begun in South Africa on a mini-series based on the Lawrence Hill novel, The Book of Negroes

The production company Conquering Lions Pictures, which has plans to film in Shelburne in the spring, has signed noted actors Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr. and Aunjanue Ellis for the project.

Officials with Film and Creative Nova Scotia were helping location scouts and producers with visits to several areas of the province, including Shelburne, in early November.

One of the recent scouting visits brought producers to Dock Street, the site of the 1994 film Scarlet Letter and of the more recent mini-series Moby Dick.

Producers who met with historical society representatives expressed a particular interest in the Ross-Thompson House.

The Canadian company partnering in the production, Conquering Lion Pictures, is an independent production company based in Toronto and is under the leadership of Damon D'Oliveira and Clement Virgo, The company’s films have in the past been selected for Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), and have been sold around the world.

According to the company’s website, the six-episode miniseries will largely follow the 2007 award-winning novel, written by Lawrence Hill, who is co-writing the script.

The story follows Aminata Diallo, who is kidnapped from West Africa at the dawn of the 19th century, survives a harrowing Atlantic crossing, is separated from her love and must navigate the American Revolution before returning to Sierra Leone, and ultimately securing her freedom in England.

Shelburne, Birchtown and the Black Loyalists all figure prominently in the novel.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is an Oscar-winning actor who has appeared in many films in his career including Pearl Harbour, Radio, Jerry MacGuire, Men of Honour and Red Tails among others.

Lou Gossett Jr. is another Oscar winner, Emmy winner and veteran actor with a career reaching back into the 1950s and many credits behind him including noted roles in the TV series Roots and movies An Officer and A Gentleman and Iron Eagle.

Aunjanue Ellis is known for her roles in The Help, Ray and The Mentalist.

The BET network is joining forces with CBC and eOne to present the mini-series, which will air in Canada and the U.S.

BET reports that the cast will also include the SAW franchise's Lyriq Bent who will be joined by actors Ben Chaplin and Allan Hawco along with four-time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander (Kramer vs. Kramer, All the President's Men).

Organizations: Conquering Lions Pictures, Ross-Thompson House, Iron Eagle CBC

Geographic location: Shelburne, Toronto, Dock Street Cannes Berlin Lawrence Hill West Africa Sierra Leone England Canada U.S.

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