Ruth Negga to star in & executive produce ‘Josephine,’ on the life of Josephine Baker

Actress Ruth Negga wearing a Gucci outfit and rings by Gucci and David Webb arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's 'Ad Astra' held at ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood Cinerama Dome on August 18, 2019 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, Uni
I am loving Black History Month 2021. On February 26th Hulu is releasing The United States vs Billie Holiday starring singer Andra Day as Billie Holiday. If that isn’t enough to get you excited, ABC Signature just announced that Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga will co-produce and star in a limited series biopic about Josephine Baker. Ruth will be working with showrunner Dee Harris-Lawrence and director Millicent Shelton in conjunction with LeBron James’ Springhill Company. The series will focus on Josephine’s life from being born in Missouri to her first shows in New York City and her move to France at 19. It will likely also cover Josephine’s activism and her work as a French spy during WWII. Below is a bit more about the announcement:

EXCLUSIVE: The remarkable story of Josephine Baker, one of the most influential female entertainers of the 20th century, will be the subject of Josephine, a limited drama series in development at ABC Signature, with Ruth Negga attached to star as the legendary Jazz Age performer and civil rights activist.

Negga also executive produces the project, which hails from David Makes Man showrunner Dee Harris-Lawrence, Emmy-nominated director Millicent Shelton (30 Rock), LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The Springhill Company and ABC Signature. Josephine stems from The Springhill Company’s overall deal with ABC Signature.

Written by Harris-Lawrence and to be directed by Shelton, Josephine is a raw and unflinching look at the force of nature that was Josephine Baker, the biggest Black female artist of her time. From international superstar and decorated WWII spy, to civil rights activist and flawed mother, Josephine delves into the raw talent, sexual fluidity, struggles and bold life of an icon.

Negga, Harris-Lawrence and Shelton executive produce with The Springhill Company.

[From Deadline]

You all have no idea how excited I am about both the Josephine Baker series and the United States vs Billie Holiday. Both are historical figures I have adored since I was a kid. Josephine’s devil may care sensuality and performances were amazing. When I discovered she had moved to France because she was tired of the terrorism and racism in America and then subsequently became a spy for the Allies in WWII she has became one of my favorite Black women in history. Josephine is a legend and she was multitalented. I think I discovered her because of my love of the Harlem Renaissance. She deserves to have her life explored on screen.

I did like Lynn Whitfield’s turn as Josephine but I felt the 1991 The Josephine Baker Story was lacking depth. I also wonder if they will include her unexpected friendship with Grace Kelly, who paid for her funeral when she died. I love that Ruth Negga will star as she looks a lot like her and is an amazing actress. I have been following Ruth’s career since I saw her in World War Z and discovered she was dating hottie actor Dominic Cooper (they are no longer together). I am also very happy to see LeBron James be attached to this project. I think it is a big deal that he is using his money to create projects that explore African American folklore and real life heroines and heroes. It just makes me love him more.

I am also looking forward to the Billie Holiday movie. The history of how the U.S. treated Billie is a little known story. Instead, Billie is always depicted as an out of control heroin addict who lived a very tragic life and died young. But Billie was more than that. She was one of my favorite jazz musicians AND we happen to be birthday twins. I hope people continue to put money in to projects that focus on Black women activist from history outside of Harriet Tubman. I feel we have exhausted every angle on Harriet’s life and I am definitely tired of the MLK and Malcolm X movies. I feel there were more heroes and heroines who did magnificent things and their stories also need to be told. The Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker projects are a great start.


'Ad Astra' film photocall, 76th Venice Film Festival, Venice, Italy 29/08/2019

Embed from Getty Images

Photos credit: and Getty and via Instagram and Wikipedia credit: Studio Harcourt – RMN, Public Domain

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16 Responses to “Ruth Negga to star in & executive produce ‘Josephine,’ on the life of Josephine Baker”

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  1. Courtney B says:

    On the recent Lovecraft country series there was an episode(I Am Hippolyta) that featured Josephine Baker and I thought it was a shame there was no series on her. Her life really can’t fit in one movie. Harlem Renaissance Leaving America for Europe where she was the goat of the town. The banana dance. Paris in the 20s. Her ‘rainbow tribe’. French resistance member. Civil rights activist. Multiple marriages including one at 13. Many lovers including women. Just so colorful and eventful. It screams for a multipart series. So this is really exciting. Ruth Negga is gorgeous and a good actress so I’m really looking forward to it! There are so many good stories untold or undertold especially with women and even more so with women of color.

  2. Ninks says:

    Ooh this is really exciting. The perfect mix of an incredibly fascinating historical figure and a really talented actress. Looking forward to this.

  3. Angh says:

    I’m very excited about this as well. Looks like they’re not shying away from the more controversial aspects of her life. This is a woman after all who is bisexual herself but disowned one of her adopted sons for being gay. She truly is a trailblazer despite her flaws and I can totally see Ruth Negga as Josephine.

  4. Petra says:

    I’m so here for this. Josephine Baker and Nina Simone are 2 of my hero. Ruth Negga is born to play Josephine. Ruth was amazing in the Loving Story…check it out on Netflix.

    • Courtney B says:

      She was amazing in that. I’ve liked her since Agents of SHIELD. She was born in Ethiopia but her father died when she was a child and she was raised in Ireland by her Irish mother. I haven’t caught her on a tv interview or award ceremony Does she have an Irish accent?

      • E.D says:

        She was fabulous on A.O.S as Raina and I would watch her in anything!

        She does have a lovely soft Irish lilt which can sound slightly more English on the odd word as she has worked a lot in of U.K Film and Television productions, but I’ve heard her use all the typical Irish phrases when she’s being interviewed.

        She’s a gorgeous human.

      • Petra says:

        On interviews she sounds British to me,

    • sally says:

      OH YES! She was BORN to do this! Beautiful woman. Only thing I don’t understand about her is why she isn’t my gf!

  5. tempest prognosticator says:

    Oh, I have hopes for this!

  6. Mrs. Peel says:

    Not only does Ruth bear a striking resemblance to Josephine, she is an incredible actress that will bring Josephine’s incredible journey to life – I’m very excited about this project.

  7. Nina Simone says:

    Wow I’m excited!! Cannot wait. Ruth looks like josephenine. Plus thanks for reminding me about Billie’s movie Oya! I’d forgotten.

  8. Sunny says:

    Josephine Baker was the daughter of two African-Americans, she is fully Ados.

    Ruth Negga is biracial and while an amazing actress;

    For colorist reasons, it would have been nice to not include yet again a biracial woman in the already crowded place for actresses who are ados.

    • SKF says:

      That’s not actually certain. Apparently there is strong evidence that she was fathered by a white man – possibly the German man her mother worked for. For instance, she was inexplicably born in a hospital for whites only when black women were almost all made to have their babies at home. Her mother refused to be drawn on it apparently. Jean-Claude Baker, Josephine’s foster son, did exhaustive research on her while life for a biography and he said:

      “I think Josephine’s father was white – so did Josephine, so did her family … people in St. Louis say that (Baker’s mother) had worked for a German family (around the time she became pregnant)… I have unraveled many mysteries associated with Josephine Baker, but the most painful mystery of her life, the mystery of her father’s identity, I could not solve. The secret died with Carrie, who refused to the end to talk about it. She let people think Eddie Carson was the father, and Carson played along, (but) Josephine knew better.”

  9. Sunnydaze says:

    Ruth Negga was EVERYTHING in Preacher. EVERYTHING. I will watch anything she’s in!

  10. Annetommy says:

    Ruth has a gentle Irish accent. Sounds an interesting film.

  11. tsk says:

    YES to a biopic of Ms. Baker.

    NO to Ruth playing her.

    Sometimes actors must realize a role is not for them and this role is not for her. She’s biracial and Irish. She’d do better finding an undiscovered African-American actress to play Josephine.