MPI and BET Original Films Announce Additional Casting for ‘Kemba’

November 4, 2022

As reported exclusively in Deadline, MPI Original Films (MPI), in association with BET, announced the casting of Michelle Hurd (Star Trek: Picard), Sean Patrick Thomas (Till), Siddiq Saunderson (Wu-Tang: An American Saga), and June Carryl (Helstrom) in the feature-length film Kemba, joining previously announced lead Nesta Cooper (See). The film directed by Kelley Kali (I am Fine (Thanks for Asking)) is currently shooting in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kemba is an MPI and BET Original Film inspired by the life of criminal justice reform advocate Kemba Smith. The film follows Kemba (Nesta) as a young college student who falls in love with a man, only to learn he is a drug kingpin who leads her down a path of abuse and manipulation, placing her in the middle of the government’s “war on drugs,” and ultimately landing her in federal prison. The film will have its television premiere on BET, with additional launch and distribution plans to be announced at a later date.

 Michelle Hurd and Sean Patrick Thomas star as Kemba’s loving parents Odessa and Gus.

Michelle Hurd currently stars opposite Patrick Stewart in the Paramount+ Star Trek: Picard. She recently completed work on AMC’s The Walking Dead: Dead City. In addition to her explosive performance as Shepherd on NBC’s hit drama Blindspot, Michelle recurred on FOX’s action crime series Lethal Weapon. She is also known for her roles in Starz’s hit horror comedy Ash vs. Evil Dead, the Marvel Universe series Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and the A&E summer series The Glades. Michelle’s feature work includes Somewhere in Montana, The Plus One, Bad Hair, Being Frank, Be Afraid, We Don’t Belong Here, Search Engines, Within The Dark, Girl Most Likely, Random Hearts, Personals, Double Parked, Wolf, and King of New York. She is represented by APA and TMT Entertainment Group.

Sean Patrick Thomas is currently starring in the critically acclaimed MGM/UA film Till, along with Hulu’s limited series Reasonable Doubt. He’s also a recurring player on the Apple+ series For All Mankind and was previously seen in the award-winning Apple Original feature The Tragedy of Macbeth. Other film credits include The Curse of La Llorona, the ensemble hit franchise Barbershop, The Fountain, Honeydripper, Cruel Intentions, Halloween: Resurrection, and Save The Last Dance. On the small screen, he starred in A Raisin in the Sun, for which he earned a nomination from the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a TV Movie. He was also in the CBS series The District and recurred on The Good Fight as well as voicing the character of Professor Macalester on the animated series Vixen. Sean is represented by Innovative Artists and AFA Prime Media.

Siddiq Saunderson plays Kemba’s college boyfriend and drug kingpin, Khalif. Siddiq currently stars in the Hulu series Wu-Tang: An American Saga. Siddiq starred in the indie drama R#J and received rave reviews for his performance as Mercutio. This “Gen Z” version of Romeo and Juliet premiered at Sundance and was adapted by Timur Bekmambetov and directed by Carey Williams. His additional television credits include BET’s Boomerang and Netflix’s Messiah. Siddiq is represented by Innovative Artists and M88.

June Carryl will be seen as Elaine, an NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer that takes up Kemba’s fight. June was a series regular in Hulu’s Helstrom and has played guest leads in a number of television shows including Y: The Last Man, Mindhunter, N.C.I.S., Shameless, 911: Lonestar, S.W.A.T. and Station 19. An award-winning playwright, June is the 2022 recipient of IAMA’s Shonda Rhimes Unsung Voices Playwriting Commission. She is represented by O’Neill Talent Group and NOVA Talent Group.

From MPI, Stacey Parks, Lana Link, and Rob Pfaltzgraff will produce. Kemba Smith, MPI’s Nick Reid, and BET’s Maureen Guthman and Connie Orlando will executive produce. BET’s Jon Marc Sandifer and Lorisa Bates will co-executive produce with MPI’s Hannah Ruth Earl and BET’s John Baldasare serving as consulting producers.

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