Barry Jenkins is already turning to television with a series based on Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad — and it turns out his next film will likewise be a daunting literary adaptation: James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk. But that particularly daunting part, actually, was seemingly completed a long time ago: apparently, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Jenkins wrote the screenplay around the same time he was adapting Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue into Moonlight — back in summer 2013.
Baldwin’s fifth novel is a love story written and set in the early 70s, and follows a young, engaged black couple — Fonny and Tish — who’re preparing for the birth of their child, and living together in Harlem — until Fonny is imprisoned on a false accusation that’s egged on by a racist police officer. Tish and her family thereafter seek answers, attempting to get the information that Tish hopes will set Fonny free.
Jenkins worked with the Baldwin estate as he was adapting Beale Street, and the film project comes with the blessing of Baldwin’s sister, who said in a statement, “We are delighted to entrust Barry Jenkins with this adaptation. Barry is a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker, whose Medicine for Melancholy impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him.”
Jenkins himself said, “To translate the power of Tish and Fonny’s love to the screen in Baldwin’s image is a dream I’ve long held dear. Working alongside the Baldwin Estate, I’m excited to finally make that dream come true.”
Jenkins plans to begin production in October of this year.