Passing Star Ruth Negga to Star as Josephine Baker in Upcoming Limited Series for ABC Signature

Ruth Negga walks the red carpet ahead of the “Ad Astra” screening during the 76th Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019 in Venice, Italy.
Ruth Negga walks the red carpet ahead of the “Ad Astra” screening during the 76th Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019 in Venice, Italy.
Photo: Tristan Fewings (Getty Images)

The life of legendary jazz entertainer Josephine Baker will be coming to a small screen near us soon, thanks to ABC Signature and LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The Springhill Company.


Deadline reports that Loving star Ruth Negga will portray the artist and activist in a new limited series titled Josephine, and will executive produce alongside David Makes Man showrunner Dee Harris-Lawrence and Emmy-nominated director Milicent Shelton. Josephine is being described as “a raw and unflinching look at the force of nature that was Josephine Baker, the biggest Black female artist of her time. From international superstar and decorated WWII spy to civil rights activist and flawed mother, Josephine delves into the raw talent, sexual fluidity, struggles and bold life of an icon.” Baker’s story and legacy has been portrayed only a few times prior onscreen, the most notable being Lynn Whitfield’s performance in HBO’s 1991 biopic and most recently in an episode of the network’s first season of Lovecraft Country.

Negga—who first garnered major attention and award nominations for her role as Mildred Loving the 2016 film Loving—can currently be seen in the Rebecca Hall-directed feature Passing, opposite Tessa Thompson. The film is an adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella and, as previously reported by The Root, tells the tale of “childhood acquaintances Irene Renfield (Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Negga), both Black women light-skinned enough to “pass” for white, but choosing dramatically divergent paths. A chance reunion sparks even more drama, as a mutual curiosity devolves into an obsession with catastrophic results. Incorporating not only colorism and the deeply dangerous phenomenon of ‘passing,’ the film also explores white supremacy, queerness, and Black class identity and mobility.” Passing made its Sundance debut just a few weeks ago and was recently acquired by Netflix for worldwide distribution rights.

Speaking on the intentionality behind accurately bringing her character Clare to life, Negga explained to The Hollywood Reporter:

“Being a mixed-race person, I think that it naturally informed Clare. Feelings of perhaps alienation, of being different, about trying to find your place. But it’s very hard for me to find distinct experiences. And even if I did, I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable articulating them because I think sometimes that’s one’s personal journey to a character, really.”


She added, “The support was extraordinary. The three of us—myself and Tessa and Rebecca—were just so determined to do [this film] to the best of our abilities.”

As of now, there has been no official word on a potential premiere date for Josephine.



Excellent casting. I remember the Lynn Whitfield one in 1991. I’ll be very interested to see a film about Baker given all that’s changed in the last 30 years.

Passing sounds interesting. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that.