Earlier this month, a new Michael Jackson biopic made the leap from possibility to reality, with Lionsgate selecting Emancipation director Antoine Fuqua to helm the project off of a script from Skyfall and Gladiator screenwriter John Logan. Now, the project has filled its most important role: the young actor who will portray the King of Pop. Lionsgate plans to keep it all in the family, selecting Jackson’s 26-year-old nephew Jaafar Jackson to star as Michael, per Deadline.
The son of fellow Jackson 5 member and Michael’s older brother Jermaine Jackson, Jaafar has been singing and dancing since he was twelve years old, and has released some of his own original music. The biopic marks his big-screen debut.
Jaafar himself confirmed the casting in a Monday Instagram post that shows young performer working on some of Michael’s moves in a dance studio.
“I’m humbled and honored to bring my Uncle Michael’s story to life,” Jaafar writes. “To all the fans all over the world, I’ll see you soon.” Multiple Jackson family members commented to show their pride, including Tito Jackson’s son TJ, who wrote: “Words can’t express… you got it…..You are truly the only one who can do it right.”
Fuqua reportedly plans to focus his attention on the biopic once he wraps The Equalizer 3, which he’s currently shooting in Italy with Denzel Washington. At that point, he’ll reunite with cinematographer and frequent collaborator Robert Richardson to kick off filming. John Branca and John McClain, the co-executors of Michael’s estate, serve as producers on the film, affording the project full rights to Michael’s musical catalog.
Beyond the music, talk has also swirled about how the film will deal with Michael’s complex life story, particularly the allegations of pervasive predatory behavior against him that date back to the late eighties. With the support of Michael’s family behind it, it’s unlikely the project will take too critical of a stance on Michael’s legacy, but at this point, only time will tell.