Aunjanue Ellis to Star in ‘The Nickel Boys’ for Director RaMell Ross and MGM’s Orion Pictures

Oscar-nominated “King Richard” and “The Help” actress Aunjanue Ellis is set to star in a feature adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” for writer-director RaMell Ross and MGM’s Orion Pictures.

The film will co-star Ethan Herisse, Brandon Wilson, Hamish Linklater and Fred Hechinger. Along with Ross, Joslyn Barnes will write the script and produce on behalf of Louverture Films.

Based on a true story, Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of Elwood Curtis, a Black boy growing up in 1960s Florida who has been unjustly shipped out to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy. While navigating the institution’s many brutalities, he befriends another inmate named Turner. Their unlikely friendship and opposing worldviews eventually take them down a road of disastrous and long-lasting consequences.

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In addition to Barnes, Plan B Entertainment and Anonymous Content will produce the film, with Whitehead serving as executive producer. Plan B and Whitehead previously collaborated on Barry Jenkins’ limited series adaptation of his other Pulitzer-winning novel, “The Underground Railroad.”

Said RaMell Ross, “It is an honor to be working with such talented people and trusted with such an incredibly written story, with historical roots. I’m constantly impressed by the passion and creativity of the collection of people moving this project forward.”

Ross, a multi-disciplinary filmmaker, visual artist and writer will make his narrative feature directorial debut with “The Nickel Boys.” His documentary “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” which he produced alongside Barnes, was nominated for an Oscar in 2019. Other works include the documentary short “Easter Snap” and “American Jail.”

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Ellis earned an Academy Award nomination for playing Oracene Price, the mother of Serena and Venus Williams, in “King Richard.” She previously held award-nominated roles in series and films such as “Lovecraft Country,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and “The Birth of a Nation.” Upcoming projects include a new film adaptation of “The Color Purple,” “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat,” and “The Deliverance.”

“The Nickel Boys” will see Ellis and Herisse reunite after co-starring in “When They See Us.” Herisse’s other credits include “Chicago Med,” “The Mindy Project,” and “Key and Peele.” Wilson appeared in “The Way Back” and the film “Murmur.”

Hechinger is known for his recent roles in “The White Lotus” and “Pam & Tommy,” and will next act in “The Pale Blue Eye,” “Butcher’s Crossing,” and Marvel’s “Kraven the Hunter.” Linklater last appeared in series “Manhunt, “Gaslit” and “Angelyne.”

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