Two time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali will portray boxing legend Jack Johnson in an upcoming six-part limited series for HBO. The series, entitled Unruly, is due to be written by American playwright and actress Dominique Morisseau and will be based on the PBS documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson and its companion book by Geoffrey C. Ward. Unruly hails from Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone.
This will in fact be the second time that the Moonlight actor has played Johnson, having starred in the 2000 stage revival of the play The Great White Hope. Mahershala Ali has described the part of Johnson as a "dream role", adding that he "really just want the opportunity to go on the hero's journey. I've never done that." Ali will also be executive producing Unruly via his production company Know Wonder.
Unruly has been described as an unapologetically black, no-holds-barred telling of the life and boxing career of Jack Johnson, the world's first black heavyweight boxing champion. The series will depict Johnson's rise to greatness in the ring, and the struggle and costs it took for him to achieve such greatness. His defiance created a blueprint for Black resistance in every justice movement for generations, and with the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement that has swept the world, this HBO limited series is sure to be topical.
Nicknamed the "Galveston Giant", John Arthur Johnson was an American boxer who, at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. Among the period's most dominant champions, Johnson remains a boxing legend, with his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries dubbed the "fight of the century".
Alongside his Academy Awards, Ali was nominated for an Emmy for his role in HBO's True Detective last year. Headline the third season of the crime thriller anthology series, Ali's True Detective takes place in 1980 and follows the disappearance of Will and Julie Purcell, the children of feuding parents Tom and Lucy Purcell, who went missing a week after Halloween in West Finger, Ark. Picking up in 2015, Ali's detective Wayne Hays, who originally investigated the crime, is asked to look back on the twists of the unsolved case.
Ali is also due to star as Blade in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the project still in its early development, Mahershala Ali is the only actor attached to the upcoming movie so far. The movie is not a part of the MCU's upcoming Phase 4, which has now been pushed back due to the ongoing global situation, giving the studio plenty of time to line everything up. It is believed that Blade will show up somewhere in Phase 5, along with Black Panther 2 and Captain Marvel 2, though it is unclear when exactly that will be.
Ali is also currently starring in comedy-drama Ramy on Hulu. The show follows "a first-generation American Muslim who is on a spiritual journey in his politically divided New Jersey neighborhood. It explores the challenges of what it is like being caught between an Egyptian community that thinks life is a moral test, and a generation that thinks life has no consequences." Ali features in a recurring role as Sheikh Ali Malik in the second season. This comes to us courtesy of Variety.