TV

Lifetime’s Embattled Aaliyah Biopic Casts Two Unknowns As Missy Elliott And Timbaland

We're having trouble feeling optimistic about this.

Lifetime sure has the market cornered when it comes to juicy biopics. We’re already planning to hate-watch “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story,” and now the network has resumed production on their embattled “Aaliyah: Princess of R&B” project, hurriedly recasting the lead role after Zendaya Coleman exited, and adding two relative newcomers to play Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Do we have a trainwreck on our hands?

By the end of June, things were looking pretty grim for the TV movie – Lifetime execs had planned to shoot over the summer and release this fall, until Coleman exited the project, halting production. Alexandra Shipp stepped in to play the beloved singer, tragically killed at age 22 in a 2001 plane crash, a couple weeks ago – and now the network has announced that unknown Chattrisse Dolabaille will play Elliott and former Canadian “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant Izaak Smith will portray Timbaland. Yup, you read that right.

Aaliyah’s family has been vocal regarding their disapproval of the biopic, which is an adaptation of the book “Aaliyah: More Than a Woman” by Christopher Farley – but network executives insist the project seeks to “Honor her legacy.”

The jury’s still out, but – with no big names attached to the film – it’s not looking good. Sure, Lifetime may have honorable intentions, but will people watch it without a big name star to anchor the story? And especially given the family’s staunch dissent against its production?

No word yet on an official release date, but we’ll be keeping an eye on this one.