It’s an A-List lineup for BET’s newest series American Soul.
By Alexia McKay
Set in early 1970s Los Angeles, the television series will be based on the life and career of Soul Train creator Don Cornelius. The series is also about Cornelius’ “struggle to make the dream of Soul Train come true”. Soul Train is the first nationally-syndicated Black music show in the country. It aired in syndication from October 2, 1971 to March 27, 2006.
The cast includes singer and actress Michelle Williams as Diana Ross. On the series, Cornelius is courting the young Ross but she has not decided if she will accept his offer yet. The new role is certainly a bright moment in the 38-year-old’s life. Williams recently called off her engagement with ex-fiance, Chad Johnson and has been battling depression. She previously starred in the sitcom “Half & Half” and several Broadway and West End musical productions such as Aida, The Color Purple, Chicago and Fela!
K. Michelle will portray R&B legend, Martha Reeves, who led the band, Martha and The Vandellas. On the series, Martha offers advice to an up and coming performer. Reeves and the Vandellas is best known for classic 60s hits such as “Love is Like a Heatwave”, “Dancing in the Streets”, “Nowhere to Run” and “Ready for Love.” The NAACP Image Award-winning singer is currently working on her 5th album and recently starred in VH1’s Love & Hip Hop and “K. Michelle: My Life.”
Other cast mates include Bobby Brown, who will guest star as soul singer, Rufus Thomas. BET says, Thomas brings a spectacle to Soul Train when he performs his signature song “Do the Funky Chicken.” Thomas is also remembered for his songs, “Push and Pull” and “Do The Funky Penguin”. He passed away in 2001. Brown’s latest roles follows two successful mini series, “The Bobby Brown Story” and “The New Edition Story.” Spanning a 40-plus year music career, Mr. Prerogative continues to tour with his New Edition band mates, Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins.
BET announced the other cast members on their website:
Multi-talented actress Gabrielle Dennis will portray Tina Turner, who is enjoying a hugely successful career with her husband as “Ike & Tina Turner” as they perform “Proud Mary” on Soul Train. A true professional, Tina chronically suffers at the hands of Ike, but you’d never know her pain by the love she shows onstage through her music. Gabrielle Dennis is a multi-hyphenate best known for her work in television as an actress, but also has an extensive background in dance, musical theater, and singing/songwriting. In addition to her critically-acclaimed performance as Whitney Houston in BET’s “The Bobby Brown Story,” Dennis has also starred in series including “Marvel’s Luke Cage” as ‘Nightshade’, “Rosewood,” “Insecure,” BET’s “The Game,” and “Blue Mountain State.” Her film credits include Black Coffee and Bring It On: Fight to the Finish. Dennis is represented by Industry Entertainment and Gersh Talent Agency.
Dynamic actor McKinley Freeman plays Ike Turner, a powerful, charismatic and volatile performer who takes the stage with his wife Tina Turner. A high maintenance talent who makes a lot of demands on management, Ike also intends to help Don turn Soul Train into a club and franchise. He doesn’t bother to hide his behavior towards his wife. Freeman most recently starred in BET’s scripted drama “Hit the Floor,” leading all four seasons of the series. Has also starred on the VH1 drama “Daytime Divas.” After a career-launching role on “All My Children,” Freeman went on to nab roles on “Bones,” “Major Crimes,” “Switched at Birth,” “Scandal,” “If Loving You is Wrong” and “9-1-1.” Freeman also produces content for film and TV, and is a strategic advisor for tech start-up companies. Freeman is represented by Stone Manners Salners and Luber Roklin.
Production for American Soul started in September in Atlanta, Ga. The series airs on February 5 at 9 PM ET/PT on BET in the U.S.
To learn more about the show click here
By Alexia McKay