Alexandra Shipp will play singer Aaliyah in upcoming Lifetime biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B.
She replaces actress Zendaya who pulled out of the production in late June and will have little time to prepare for the role as filming is due to start at the end of July.
Talk show host and executive producer of the movie Wendy Williams confirmed Friday that Alexandra, 23, will take on the task of playing the hugely popular star, who tragically died in a plane crash in 2001.
— LifetimePR (@LifetimeTV_PR) July 18, 2014
She tweeted: I’m excited to exec produce the Aaliyah @lifetimetv movie w/ @DebraMChase. Prod starts later this month and @AlexShippppwill play Aaliyah’
Disney star Zendaya didn’t initially give a reason for why she dropped out of the production. However, the 17-year-old received backlash from fans who claimed she was too light-skinned to play the late star.
Her father/bodyguard Kazembe Ajamu later insisted race had nothing to do with her decision, which placed the production ‘on hold’ for a short time.
After news of Alexandra’s casting was released on Friday, Zendaya opened up to her fans via Instagram with a video explaining her decision.
She said: ‘The main reasons were the production value wasn’t there, there were complications with the music rights, and I just felt like it wasn’t being handled delicately considering the situation…
‘And I tried my best to reach out to the family on my own, and I wrote a letter, but I was unable to do so therefore I felt not really morally okay with moving forward with the project.’
It has been said that Aaliyah’s family members are not happy with the planned biopic, and allegedly suggested the production values should be bigger and the actors more high-profile.
Meanwhile, Alexandra tweeted back on July 10 that she had some exciting news, exclaiming: ‘It’s like God keeps making life better, I swear thank you universe!!!
The actress has previously played roles on Nickelodeon show House of Anubis and the movie Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.
The Aaliyah biopic will be released this autumn and will follow the multi platinum-selling R&B star’s career from 10-year-old Star Search contestant to her death in a plane crash in the Bahamas at just 22-years-old.
By Heather Waugh