Seventeen year-old Zendaya Coleman was set to play R&B singer Aaliyah in a TV movie, produced by Lifetime Television. The teenager had previously expressed her joy at beating out dozen of actresses to clinch the role. 

She has now done an about turn, apparently after hearing that Aaliyah’s family had not given their approval for the film. In addition, Zendaya has apparently learnt that Lifetime had not secured the rights to Aaliyah’s music.

A source told E! News that there were production issues as well. 

“Aaliyah has always been an inspiration to Zendaya. She was honoured to portray her and pay tribute to her. If she is going to do it, she wants to do it right, said the source.

Speaking to American radio station, V-103 Aaliyah’s uncle, Jomo Hankerson said they had not been approached by Lifetime to be included in the making of the movie. He said Aaliyah’s mother, Diane and her brother Rashad had only seen the details of the film in a press release.

“My one problem with what Lifetime is doing musically, is that they’re actually having the young lady recut Aaliyah’s vocals. To hear somebody else on top of One In A Million… There was a lot of flack when there were other new producers doing Aaliyah music, I can’t imagine somebody singing One In A Million as if she’s Aaliyah. That’s unfathomable to me.

“I just think this needs theatres. This needs to be a major movie film. I would love to get Zoe Saldana [to play Aaliyah]. I think she could pull off the acting part of it and she’s obviously gorgeous and beautiful,” said Hankerson.

He added that he sympathised with Zendaya who has been slammed for being too young, and not black enough to play Aaliyah.

He said his niece went through just such a struggle, shortly after her marriage to R Kelly was annulled. “Aaliyah went through a similar situation after the R. Kelly thing, so I hate to see a young woman go through the kind of backlash she’s getting. She’s [Zendaya] trying to get a job. It’s not her. Our problem is with Lifetime and the way they did the project, and again, like I said, is the platform.”

Lifetime is yet to comment on the the future of the film.


SOURCES: V-103, E!News