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Spike Lee’s ‘Rodney King’ Starring Roger Guenveur Smith Acquired by Netflix (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 3/7/2017 Dave McNary
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Netflix has bought the rights to “Rodney King,” directed by Spike Lee and performed as a one-man show by Roger Guenveur Smith. The streaming service has scheduled the project to premiere on April 28.

In addition to starring in “Rodney King,” Smith also serves as an executive produces. Steven Adams and Bob L. Johnson are producing for Luna Ray Media and Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, and Patrick DePeters are executive producing for Buffalo 8 Productions.

The date for airing “Rodney King” has been chosen to coincide with the upcoming 25th anniversary of the state court acquittals of the four LAPD officers who were videotaped beating King in 1991. The acquittals, which took place in Simi Valley, sparked three days of rioting that left 53 dead.

King was credited with having played a key role in ending the rioting, thanks to an interview he gave on May 1, 1992, the third day of the disruptions. A clearly distraught King asked plaintively, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”

King died in 2012 by drowning, following a lifetime of battling alcohol and drug abuse and repeated run-ins with the law. The events led Smith to explore King’s life as the basis for a one-man show.

“When he died, I was struck with how much I was moved, how much this tragic figure mattered to me,” Smith told Variety.

He’s been performing the play for the past four years and will soon conclude the run with performances in Oakland, Calif.; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. The Netflix film was shot by Lee on Aug. 12 in New York City.

“It was a packed house at the East River Park Amphitheater on a sweltering night,” he recalls.

Smith has been performing one-man shows for more than two decades. starting with “A Huey P. Newton Story,” about the co-founder of the Black Panther Party. He also created “Juan and John,” about baseball players Juan Marichal and John Roseboro; “Frederick Douglass Now,” inspired by the 19th-century abolitionist; and “Who Killed Bob Marley?”

Smith credits Hal Holbrook’s “Mark Twain Tonight” for serving as an inspiration: “It’s incredible how he’s been doing that for more than 60 years and it’s fresh every time.”

Smith has appeared in half a dozen of Lee’s films, including “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “School Daze,” “He Got Game,” “Get on the Bus” and “Chiraq.” His extensive screen credits also include “Eve’s Bayou,” “Poetic Justice,” “All About the Benjamins,” and HBO’s “K Street” and “Oz.”

Smith’s Luna Rey Media, which includes manager and producer Steven Adams and entertainment attorney Bob L. Johnson, has a development slate includes film adaptations of previously produced stage productions of Smith’s performance work — “Inside The Creole Mafia”, “Frederick Douglass Now,” “Iceland” and “Who Killed Bob Marley?” executive produced by Steven Soderbergh.

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