Wishful Casting: Lifetime’s Upcoming Steel Black Magnolias

In a bit of peculiar-yet-awesome development news, Deadline is reporting Lifetime is set to remake Robert Harling's genius 1989 Southern dramedy Steel Magnolias — with an all-black cast! Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are set to produce the reimagining via their Sony TV-based Storyline Entertainment shingle. Famed director Kenny Leon is set to direct. Sally Robinson (The Music Man) is adapting the original Harling vehicle, which began as a stage play Harling wrote to help him cope with the loss of his sister to diabetes.

Since no casting choices have been reported for the project as of yet, I figured I'd give Wishful Casting the TV adaptation of one of my favorite movies a whirl! For the lead role of M'Lynn Eatenton, ever fretful mama of fragile-yet-courageous Shelby, I can't think of anyone better than Grey's Anatomy's own source of indominable strength, Chandra Wilson.

One of TV's most underrated stars, Wilson as Bailey has kept Grey's on many a fan's DVR when the perpetual neuroses of Meredith and her Dr. McDreamy had us ready to ask for a time of death on the ABC sudser. Wilson would be the perfect person to follow in Sally Field's sensible shoes. I get chills thinking about what she would do with M'Lynn's graveyard meltdown!



 For Shelby, M'Lynn's daughter, who like Harling's real-life sister struggled valiantly with diabetes, while never ceasing to go after her 30 minutes of wonderful, I'd cast former child star Keke Palmer. Palmer has proven she can do both drama (Akeelah and The Bee) and comedy (Nickelodeon's True Jackson, VP), and at 18, she's only a few years younger than Julia Roberts was when the role of Shelby put her on the Hollywood A-List.

Photos of Chandra Wilson and Keke Palmer by PR Photos

10 Responses

  1. Profile photo of alstonboy4315

    Chandra Wilson ROCKS!! She is the star of “Grey’s Anatomy” for me, and always has been……..not Katherine Heigl or Ellen Pompeo. It’s absolutely criminal that this woman doesn’t have at least ONE Emmy on her mantle, even though we all know that Emmys aren’t worth their weight in “gold.”

    And Jackee Harry needs another TV hit show. She’s brilliantly funny….not to mention a sweetheart who actually responds back to her followers personally on Twitter, unlike most snobby celebunots.

    Jamey, as usual, your choices are spot on, but knowing our luck, we’d be stuck with collective messes like Texas Battle, Julie Pace Mitchell, Denise Vasi and Christel Khalil….


  2. Profile photo of maxsmom

    “Her colors are pink and pink”-M’Lynn

    I too love this movie and really hope they dont remake it and if they do I’m sorry but I disagree with your every casting choices. They should use unknowns if they must remake it…of course I’d watch either way.

  3. Profile photo of liason4real

    Alstonboy4315…I agree about CW as Bailey! Bailey is the “heart and soul” of GA and I hate that the show has watered her down or the character is MIA most of the time….Grrr.

  4. Profile photo of Freerhythm

    While I think that Li’l Romeo is growing up quite nicely, I’d rather see Lance Gross in the role of Jackson. Anything that brings that beautiful chocolate man to my screen is a welcome casting choice to me! Add him and Idris to the cast, and I’m stalking the movie set!

    As for the women:

    -I like Chandra Wilson, but I’m not sure if she’s “mature” enough to pull off the mother of a grown woman. One of the beautiful things about the movie was Sally Field proving that women approaching middle-age weren’t useless in Hollywood (she was 43 at the time). Chandra’s 42, but don’t look it. Black don’t crack, I know. But I’d still go with an older actress. Y&R will have butchered YoHarmony’s character soon enough. Perhaps Debbi Morgan will be available?

    – I love, love, LOVE the Phylicia Rashad casting and I love watching her shine on screen with her li’l sis. If she’s unavailable, how about Diahann Carroll. (talk about Black don’t Crack!)

    – I could see Anika Noni Rose in the part of Annelle / HolyRoller

    – Shelby, imo, would be the hardest part to cast. I’m not impressed with too many of the young black “ingenues” right now, Keke Palmer and Tika Sumpter notwithstanding. How about Beyonce? LOL, j/k please don’t kill me!!!!!

  5. Profile photo of Angie Lucy
    Angie Lucy

    Sorry Jamey, but your choices for Shelby and Jackson are way off. Remember that Jackson is a lawyer. Unless he’s also Doogie Howser, there’s no way he can be played by a 22-year-old. Plus, Romeo has a baby face, so he looks even younger than he is. Shelby is not some teenage girl; she’s a grown (albeit young) woman who is marrying a practicing attorney. Paula Patton and Tika Sumpter would be much more appropriate for Shelby. I like Freerhythm’s choice of Lance Gross for Jackson. Derek Luke could also work.

    I like Chandra Wilson, but not for M’Lynn. She’s too young–as was Sally Field, but they went with it. However, Chandra looks younger than her actual age (as a previous poster said, Black don’t crack!).

    Jackee’ is an inspired choice for Truvy. You read my mind about Phylicia Rashad as Claree. But how about Whoopi Goldberg as Ouisa? She can do mean and crochety so well.

  6. Profile photo of Camp is not a sustainable model
    Camp is not a sustainable model

    @Jamey: I went for the gold with a star studded cast. I consider many of your choices decent but not for a black remake of this movie. You need to go with mostly named actors and actresses. Remember this is Hollywood. So here are the casting changes I would make to set this off right:

    Lynn Whitfield (Medea’s Family Reunion, Eve’s Bayour ) as M’Lynn Eatenton would be a better and more suitable choice as the lead. She is representative of how more would envision the black lead’s personality and all.

    Jurnee Smollett (The Great Debaters, Friday Night Lights) as Shelby. She a future Hollywood golden child and would fit into the role the way it should be played by a young African American woman. Keke’s too “urban” for how I see the role being played.

    Loretta Devine (Crash, Jumping the Broom) as Truvy Jones also makes a better casting. Her name alone lets you know she will produce the goods needed in the role.

    Kerry Washington (Last King of Scottland, Ray) as Annelle Dupuy. Now this actress can work it out. She could quickly become the black woman who goes through many changes to become the bible thumpin’ sistah.

    For the old coots Cicely Tyson (Sounder, The Help) as Belle Clairee Belcher and Diane Caroll (Dynasty) as Ouiser Boudreaux. This pair would be golden.

    Lawrence Fishburne (The Tina Turner Story, Contagion) as Drum. Now he can play this role with panache.

    Anthony Mackie as Jackson Latcherie . As you can see I’m putting together a cast of cast. Mackie is much better suited and booted to take on this role. Romeo again is too “urban” for this role.

    Anthony Anderson would work well as Sammy Desoto so I’d keep that. As is Idris Elba as Spud Jones.

    James Earl Jones as Owen Jenkin would set this cast off right.

  7. Profile photo of marknsprmo

    Victoria Rowell as Melinda!
    Damon Wayans as Drum.
    Then as a bit of fun casting have Damon Wayan’s Jr playing Jackson.
    Jackee as Claree
    Whoopi Goldberg as Ouiser
    Monique as Truvy
    Shemar Moore as Spud

  8. Profile photo of Angie Lucy
    Angie Lucy

    [quote=marknsprmo]Victoria Rowell as Melinda!
    Damon Wayans as Drum.
    Then as a bit of fun casting have Damon Wayan’s Jr playing Jackson.
    Jackee as Claree
    Whoopi Goldberg as Ouiser
    Monique as Truvy
    Shemar Moore as Spud[/quote]

    Damon Sr. and Jr. look too much alike to play the father and husband of Shelby.

    Since we’re throwing soap actors into the mix, how about Debbi Morgan as M’Lynn?

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