Kelvin Harrison Jr. is set to play the iconic American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in a new project called Samo Lives.
Samo Lives is set to be directed by Julius Onah (The Cloverfield Paradox) and will explore the life and career of the legendary New York artist. A website for the film was made live on Wednesday, with a statement from Onah on the upcoming film and what he hopes to accomplish with it.
“Part of my becoming aware of Jean-Michel was through Julian Schnabel’s film from 1996,” Onah said. “It was a gateway for a kid desperate to find artists he could see himself in. But the older I got and the more I learned about Jean-Michel, the more I began to feel his story hadn’t fully been told in cinema. Never have we seen the full spectrum of Basquiat’s incredible life as a Black artist and a child of the immigrant African diaspora. And the richness and nuance of his journey is a story worthy of celebration. The joy, the excitement, the passion, and ultimately the transformative power of overcoming the odds as an outsider to create something that will outlive every single one of us. It’s a beautiful thing. So two years ago I embarked on another phase of my creative journey when I asked myself: what kind of movie would Jean-Michel’s artistry inspire?”
Onah went on to note that the “ultimate intent” of the film will be to “focus on the inspirational power” of Basquiat’s life. “By capturing it through the lens of a Black director and writer of the diaspora for the very first time, I believe his story can speak to a complexity of experience and with a specificity we have yet to see. Bringing people together with his work (across race, class, and culture) is perhaps Jean-Michel Basquiat’s greatest legacy of all. His art has changed the world.”
For Harrison, this will be another huge film in the career of the young actor. His breakout role came in 2017’s Mudbound, before starring in a variety of films, including It Comes at Night, Luce, Waves, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and most recently, Cyrano.