ABOVE PHOTO: Toni Braxton (s_bukley / Shutterstock.com)
By Tambay A. Obenson
shadow and act.com
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced last week that singer/actress Toni Braxton is set to star as Darlene Love in the network’s first scripted TV film My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story.
Executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and filmmaker Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom), My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story features the story of one of the 1960’s iconic musical voices, Darlene Love. Love began cutting records for producer Phil Spector right out of high school, and went on to work with some of the greatest musical talents in history, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen. Including her love affair with Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, Love’s “dishy and dramatic” story is one of a woman who had it all, lost it all, but never, ever refused to give up.
Toni Braxton, most recently seen on Broadway in the musical revue After Midnight, will star in the title role.
But that’s not all!
In addition, the network also announced that Octavia Spencer will star in a two-night event mini-series, Tulsa (working title), which is currently in development. Tulsa will tell the story of the largest race riot in U.S. history, where over 300 people were believed to have been murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma – a story that was largely covered up for decades. The mini-series centers on Mattie Clay (Spencer), a journalist from Tulsa, who moved to Chicago with the hopes of getting off the society pages and away from racism. Mattie’s journey eventually brings her back home to Tulsa where she must face the demons of her past and decide where her future lies.
The network also announced today a groundbreaking seven-part television event Belief presented by Oprah Winfrey, which explores humankind’s search for meaning and connection. The series, which will premiere in 2015, will allow viewers to witness some of the world’s most fascinating beliefs through the eyes of the believer. It will search the origins of our faith, from the epic to the intimate. For example, an inside look at the largest peaceful gathering in the history of the world, as believers seek redemption along the banks of a sacred river; a gripping story of a free climber who believes there is no greater power than just being present as he clings to the side of a mountain without rope; a 21st century woman reconnecting to ancient ceremonies in hopes of finding a miracle cure; a culture hanging on to its 50,000 year-old history of searching the stars for insight in order to pass it along to a new generation; and, a grieving mother who must grapple with forgiveness as she comes face-to-face with her son’s killer. All of these and many more first-person accounts will leave viewers asking themselves “What do I believe?”
Also, Tyler Perry’s popular drama series “The Haves and the Have Nots” and previously announced new series “Single Moms Club” (working title) each have received 20-episode orders. The latter will premiere in the fall.
“Coming off our most watched quarter in network history, we are excited to get to work on these new scripted projects with Octavia and Toni,” said Erik Logan, president of OWN. “By diversifying our programming, we are also growing our audience, and these new projects put us in a great position to take the network to the next level.”
“Oprah, Erik, and I have big dreams for OWN and you are seeing them come true,” added Sheri Salata, president OWN. “With multiple scripted films and series in active development, Justin Timberlake headlining our brand new season of “Oprah’s Master Class” and the addition of an epic worldwide event like ‘Belief,’ we are thrilled about what the future holds.”
Big plans ahead for OWN, which, by the way, is coming off its best quarter in the history of the network!