7:49 pm EDT, July 1, 2020

Mahershala Ali to play heavy weight champ Jack Johnson in HBO’s ‘Unruly’

Actor Mahershala Ali is heading back to HBO for his next small screen project.

According to Variety, Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali has signed on to star in a brand new limited series titled Unruly coming down the pipeline on HBO.

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The six-part series tells the story of Jack Johnson— the first Black heavyweight boxing champion, detailing Johnson’s rise to the top of his game in the sport, while also delving into the obstacles he raised on his path to greatness due to the color of his skin.

Specifically, Ali is set to star as Jack Johnson himself.

As Variety points out in their report, this isn’t the first time Mahershala Ali has taken on Johnson’s story. The Oscar winner first portrayed the heavyweight boxing champion back in 2000 in a stage production of The Great White Hope. That Ali now has a chance to bring Johnson to life on the small screen is something of a full-circle moment.

As for HBO, the premium cable network has been looking to tell Johnson’s story for quite some time now. In fact, HBO previously put the project into production back in 2013, tapping Beau Willimon to pen the script. Willimon has since stepped down from writing duties, and will instead stay on as a co-producer on the project.

Instead, Unruly will now be written and executive produced by Dominique Morisseu.

Morisseu in turn is set to base the limited series off of Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, a PBS documentary that first debuted back in 2004, which was directed and executive produced by Ken Burns.

Speaking of Burns, the documentary filmmaker is set to serve as an executive producer on Unruly along with Ali himself, who will produce through his production company, Know Wonder. Other producers on the project include Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, who will both produce under the Playtone banner, as well as Mimi Valdes and Amatus Karim Ali.

There’s currently no word on when we can expect Unruly starring Mahershala Ali to debut via HBO.

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