TIME Television

Aaliyah Biopic Gets New Star

The British Academy Children's Awards - Arrivals
Alexandra Shipp arrives at the British Academy Children's Awards at the London Hilton on November 25, 2012 in London, England. Dave M. Benett—Getty Images

Alexandra Shipp will play the slain R&B singer in the Lifetime biopic due out later this year

Nickelodeon star Alexandra Shipp is set to play the R&B legend Aaliyah in an upcoming Lifetime biopic scheduled to premier this fall, according to talk show host Wendy Williams, who is an executive producer on the project. Shipp takes on the role after Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman opted out in June.

Williams tweeted news of the the cast change on Friday:

The film, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, will portray the life of the beloved singer who’s music topped the pop charts from 1994 until her untimely death in a 2001 plane crash at 22. The TV movie will be based on the biography, Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, by former TIME editor Christopher John Farley.

The singer died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22 after filming a music video in the Bahamas. Eight others died in the accident.

TIME aaliyah

Zendaya Will Not Play Aaliyah in TV Film Citing ‘Production’ Issues

Zendaya arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere "Blended" at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 21, 2014 in Hollywood.
Zendaya arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere "Blended" at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 21, 2014 in Hollywood. Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Zendaya will no longer play Aaliyah in an upcoming film

(LOS ANGELES) — Dust yourself off and try again Lifetime Network: Zendaya will no longer play Aaliyah in an upcoming film.

The 17-year-old Disney Channel star said Sunday that she pulled out of the project because “production-wise, (it) wasn’t all the way there.”

“Because it’s someone that I honor and I respect so much, it has to be 128 percent, especially for all her fans, including myself,” Zendaya said on her way into the BET Awards, where she’s up for the Young Stars award. “I didn’t feel like it was all the way there, so I didn’t want to do that. And when the time comes when it’s done right and it’s 100 percent, by all means, I will be the first person there ready to go.”

Lifetime announced Zendaya’s participation two weeks ago. The announcement sparked anger from Aaliyah’s family, who are not participating in the project.

The network tweeted Sunday: “We are sad Zendaya will no longer portray Aaliyah. Production is currently on hold.”

Others on social media suggested that another actress should play the late singer, who died in 2001 at age 22.

Zendaya defended winning the role in an interview with The Associated Press a day after the announcement. The 17-year-old said she wanted to show young people what Aaliyah was able to do.

“Of course it was hard” to pull out of the film, Zendaya said, “but again, I just think she deserves the world. She deserves something really, really incredible and so I would rather wait for that.”

The biopic was scheduled to film this summer.

TIME Television

17-Year-Old Zendaya Cast in Lifetime’s Aaliyah Biopic

Zendaya arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere "Blended" at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 21, 2014 in Hollywood.
Zendaya arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere "Blended" at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 21, 2014 in Hollywood. Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Age ain't nothing but a number—the Disney Channel star was clearly that somebody for this one-in-a-million role

Updated 11:04 p.m. EST

The Lifetime channel’s department of R&B biopics is on a roll with casting news lately. Last week it announced that America’s Next Top Model alumna Yaya DaCosta will play Whitney Houston in the television movie about her life, and on Monday the network announced that 17-year-old singer and actress Zendaya will play the late Aaliyah in a movie (working title: Aaliyah: Princess of R&B) airing this fall.

After beginning her career on Star Search as a 10-year-old, Aaliyah became a pop superstar in the 1990s. Her life and career were cut short in 2001, when she died in a plane crash at the age of 22. The biopic is based off the book Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by former TIME critic Christopher Farley.

Zendaya, who will record four of Aaliyah’s most well-known songs for the movie, released her self-titled debut last year and has acted in the Disney Channel show Shake It Up! Her first single, “Replay,” is certified platinum in the U.S., and Zendaya also finished in second place on the spring 2013 season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.

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