After more than two years in development, ABC and Oprah Winfrey are moving forward with production on Their Eyes Were Watching God, a TV movie starring Halle Berry. Michael Ealy, Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Emmy winner Ruby Dee are also set to costar in the Harpo Films project, adapted from lesbian author Zora Neale Hurston's 1937 novel, which is hailed as a masterpiece of black American literature. Berry will play Janie Crawford, a free-spirited 1920s woman whose search for identity and happiness through three marriages with very different men puts her in opposition to the mores of her small Florida town. Santiago-Hudson will play Janie's ambitious second husband, who forces her into submission and often beats her. Ealy (Barbershop) will play Janie's third husband, the first man to truly love and respect her. Dee will play Nanny, Janie's grandmother who, as a slave near the end of the Civil War, gave birth to her white master's child. Nanny raised Janie after her mother disappeared soon after giving birth.
Production on the movie has begun in Los Angeles for a premiere during the 2004-2005 season under ABC's "Oprah Winfrey Presents" banner. Winfrey will serve as executive producer along with Quincy Jones, who was a producer on Steven Spielberg's 1985 film The Color Purple, which costarred Winfrey. Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog), the first black woman playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize, wrote the script. (Reuters/The Hollywood Reporter)