Move this one to the top of your reading list: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me will be an HBO special this fall, the premium cabler announced Thursday.
This Is Us star Susan Kelechi Watson, along with Coates and his longtime friend/Apollo Theater executive producer Kamilah Forbes, will executive-produce the special. Forbes also will direct.
“I’ve been working with Kamilah for almost as long as I’ve been a writer,” Coates said in a statement. “I can think of no one better to put Between the World and Me on screen and no better home for it than HBO.”
The New York Times bestselling book was adapted for the stage by the Apollo in 2018; HBO’s version will combine elements of that production as well as animation, archival footage and documentary footage from the actors’ home lives.
Between the World and Me was published in 2015 and was written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son. It chronicles the author’s often harrowing experiences as a young Black man in Baltimore’s inner city. Per the special’s official release, “The narrative explores Coates’ bold notion that American society structurally supports white supremacy.”
Via statement, HBO boss Casey Bloys said. “Ta-Nehisi’s book is a modern literary classic that provides an essential message for our times. We are tremendously proud to bring this incredibly important event to our audiences.”
Roger Ross Williams (The Innocence Files, Undercover Boss) will produce. The special is slated to air in Fall 2020.
“Through Between the World and Me, we intend to create a space of communion where Black people can metabolize our grief, celebrate our joys and continue to amplify the current discourse regarding race and culture in our country and around the world,” Watson said in a statement. “Ta-Nehisi’s words lend themselves to an experience that is shared by so many of us. I’m thrilled to work with HBO and these brilliant minds on a special that is both timely and urgent.”
“Ta-Nehisi Coates’ BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME is a seminal piece of literature that has pushed crucial conversations around our country and racism to the forefront of our cultural conversation,” said Roger Ross Williams. “Having witnessed Ta-Nehisi and Kamilah stage Between the World and Me, I am thrilled to be a part of bringing this powerful work and its message to HBO and an even wider audience.”
Coates’ book Between the World and Me, published by One World, is a New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award winner, and Pulitzer Prize finalist. First published in 2015, it is written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son and recounts the author’s experiences growing up in Baltimore’s inner city and his growing fear of daily violence against the Black community. The narrative explores Coates’ bold notion that American society structurally supports white supremacy.
The stage adaptation based on Between the World and Me was originally performed in 2018 as a limited engagement at the Apollo Theater and the Kennedy Center, with encore performances at the Apollo Theater and again in Atlanta in 2019. Kamilah Forbes, a close friend of Coates, is featured in the book as “Aunt Kamilah” and was immediately inspired to adapt Coates’ work to the stage after reading it. The pair met at Howard University, a pivotal time in both of their lives that has been a continued source of creativity and inspiration. Watson, also a Howard alum, participated in the staged reading at the Apollo and Kennedy Center.