Many are familiar with Raven Goodwin due to her roles on BET’s Being Mary Jane and Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, but her next role aims to take her to another level.
The actress, who had a breakout role in The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel, has been tapped to play Hattie McDaniel, the first Black person to ever win an Oscar, in Behind the Smile. The biopic is being produced by Jami McCoy-Lankford of Hillionaire Productions and Global Genesis Group, with the script written by Gregory Blair.
“Raven Goodwin is such a phenomenal talent and a gift to this project,” McCoy-Lankford said in a statement to Deadline, the outlet that broke this news. “In our first meeting on Zoom, she already showed the kind of passion that is befitting such a complex and iconic character as Hattie McDaniel was.” Blair’s screenplay will focus on the inspiring and harrowing story of McDaniel, who famously played Mammy in 1939’s Gone With the Wind, a role that earned her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Infamously, she wasn’t allowed to sit amongst her peers during the segregated ceremony at the Ambassador Hotel since it was for whites only. They allowed her in as a “favor.” When McDaniel died in 1952, her final wish — to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery — was denied because the graveyard was restricted to whites only.
“It’s exciting to be involved in telling the story of a woman who is a part of American history as well as movie history,” said Rick Romano, President of Global Genesis Group. “Now, more than ever, in a still divisive time in our country’s relationship with race, the story of Hattie McDaniel is meaningful and current. Individuals such as Hattie McDaniel were trailblazers in their struggle for equality, and their stories need to be told for our country’s understanding of inclusiveness and tolerance. We are thrilled to have Raven Goodwin play Hattie McDaniel and provide an honest look into the triumphs and tragedies of her life.”
Raven Goodwin, 28, has been acting since the age of 9, starring as Annie Marks in the film Lovely & Amazing (2001), for which she earned a nomination from the Black Reel Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards. “Hattie YOU did it. Because of your legacy, we are able to write and portray OURSELVES in whatever light we choose,” Goodwin told Deadline. “I am forever honored. I look forward to bringing this important historical and relevant life story to the screen.”
There is no director yet attached to this project, but Goodwin’s participation should spotlight the indelible mark Hattie McDaniel made in Hollywood.