I spent the first half of summer 2018 producing the movie EMPEROR, based on the true story of Shields Green, who was rumored to have royal heritage. He escaped from slavery and had a series of amazing adventures as he moved north, where he ended up meeting Fredrick Douglass and John Brown.
First up is location scouting.
We saw pretty much every swamp in Savannah, and a few other cities too.
Plenty of reminders where we were.
In the gift shop of one of the forts. I shoulda bought it!
This was in the lobby of the building we used as our production office. I thought that was a good sign.
I like to cover the walls of the production office with research and inspirational images for the film.
Emperor. Something about this image that is undeniably powerful.
Dayo Okeniyi as Shields Green, Emperor.
Got to pick the right gun for each character.
Over the years, there have been many versions of the American flag. You have to pick the right one for the era.
EMPEROR is inspired by the true story of Shields Green (Okeniyi), who in 1859 escaped from a plantation and made a daring journey north where he met Frederick Douglass and John Brown (Cromwell). With the opportunity to continue to freedom in Canada, Green instead chose to fight to end slavery. The raid at Harpers Ferry is considered one of the sparks that led to the Civil War.
Cromwell will be on the screen this summer in the highly anticipated JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. He is best known for iconic roles in THE GREEN MILE, LA CONFIDENTIAL and BABE, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor.
“It’s a special treat to play the same character my father played in a movie he directed, ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS,” Cromwell said. “Both of us are attracted to the character of John Brown, my father because he was a Civil War buff, and a liberal, and I, because I believe what John Brown did was necessary, if misguided, and I’m a progressive. ”
Dern next co-stars with Matthew McConaughey in Sony’s WHITE BOY RICK, and has recently been seen in the films CHAPPAQUIDDICK, THE HATEFUL EIGHT and DJANGO UNCHAINED. He is best known for his Academy Award® nominated performances in NEBRASKA and COMING HOME.
Award-winning actress and singer Naturi Naughton is best known for her performance as Tasha St. Patrick on the hit TV series “Power,” which she is the two-time recipient of the NAACP Award’s “Best Supporting Actress in a Drama” category. Naughton is also known for her breakout film role starring as female rap icon ?Lil Kim in NOTORIOUS, as well as the remake of the classic film FAME. Naughton first emerged in the entertainment business as one-third of the platinum selling girl group, 3LW.
Lennix, who will be playing American legend Frederick Douglass in the film, is best known for roles in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, MAN OF STEEL and THE MATRIX RELOADED. He also appeared on series “The Blacklist.”
Graham has recently been seen in Netflix’s “How it Ends” and also features ALL EYEZ ON ME and WHERE’S THE MONEY, as well as a series regular on “The Vampire Diaries.” She will soon be seen in the heist thriller CUT THROAT CITY.
Robson is best known as the series regular Craig Cody on the TV series “Animal Kingdom,” and for roles in the show “Vikings” and features THE BOY and DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE.
Johnson will next be seen starring in Robert Rodriguez’s ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL and is known for his role on the award winning series “Nashville” and “The Fosters.” He will also be seen in the upcoming heist thriller CUT THROAT CITY.
EXCLUSIVE: Oscar nominees James Cromwell and Bruce Dern have signed on for Emperor, joining previously announced star Dayo Okeniyi in the Civil War-abolitionist film directed by former Lionsgate exec Mark Amin. Paul Scheer, Harry Lennix, Naturi Naughton, Mykelti Williamson, Ben Robson, Keean Johnson, and Kat Graham are also attached to co-star in the film, which hails from Amin’s Sobini Filmsbanner.
Inspired by the true story, the pic follows Shields Green (Okeniyi), who in 1859 escaped from a plantation and made a daring journey north where he met Frederick Douglass (Lennix) and John Brown. With the opportunity to continue to freedom in Canada, Green instead chose to fight to end slavery. The raid at Harpers Ferry is considered one of the sparks that led to the Civil War.
Cromwell and Dern will play John Brown and Levi Coffin, respectively, two of the great heroes of the American abolitionist movement. Cromwell can be seen this weekend in Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, while Dern next co-stars with Matthew McConaughey in Sony’s White Boy Rick.
Known for her role in the Starz drama, Power, Naughton will play Sarah Green, the wife of abolitionist and runaway slave Shields Green. Sheer, recently seen in The Disaster Artist and Veep, will portray drunken, pretentious plantation owner Duvane Henderson.
The film, co-written by Amin and Pat Charles, is currently shooting in Savannah, Georgia. Reginald Hudlin is producing for Hudlin Entertainment with Cami Winikoff and Amin for Sobini while Sobini’s Tyler Boehm will serve as executive producer. UTA is handling domestic sales.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gregory Pace/REX/Shutterstock (8458104bj) Dayo Okeniyi ‘Shades of Blue’ TV Series Season 2 premiere, Arrivals, New York, USA – 01 Mar 2017
EXCLUSIVE: Dayo Okeniyi, best known for his role in The Hunger Games as well as NBC’s Shades of Blue, has been tapped as the lead in Emperor, a Civil War-era historical drama from Sobini Films. Former Lionsgate exec and Sobini founder Mark Amin is directing the pic.
Written by Amin and Pat Charles, the screenplay is inspired by the story of Shields Green who, in 1859, escaped from a plantation and made a daring journey north where he met Frederick Douglass and John Brown. With the opportunity to continue to freedom in Canada, Green instead chose to fight to end slavery. The raid at Harpers Ferry is considered one of the sparks that led to the Civil War.
Reginald Hudlin is producing the project via Hudlin Entertainment alongside Amin and Cami Winikoff for Sobini, while Tyler Boehm will serve executive producer. Filming is expected to commence in June in Savannah, Georgia. UTA is handling domestic sales.
Okeniyi will co-star in the third and final season of the Jennifer Lopez-Ray Liotta police drama Shades of Blue, which will begin June 17. Other film credits include The Spectacular Now and Terminator Genisys. Okeniyi is repped by UTA, Authentic Talent and Literary Management, and McKuin Frankel Whitehead.
Amin has produced a number of films including the Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, directed by and starring Don Cheadle and Good Kill with Ethan Hawke. His forthcoming slate includes Mary Shelley starring Elle Fanning, and the Justin Kelly-directed JT Leroy pic starring Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, and Diane Kruger. Amin is repped by UTA.