Nickelodeon star Alexandra Shipp has been chosen to replace Zendaya in the planned Lifetime biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, which has already entered production and begins filming later this month. The surprise choice comes after Zendaya dropped from the production last month, which threatened to halt its progress. The last-minute recast puts Alexandra Shipp on the spot.
The actress has appeared in starring roles in Nickelodeon's House of Anubis television series, U.S. News reports, as well as a role in the film Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Shipp has not otherwise had extensive experience in her young career and has never attempted to personify another celebrity.
The film, which Lifetime will produce for its cable channel and outlets, is meant to document the life of rhythm and blues singer Aaliyah, who died in 2001 in a tragic plane crash that cut short a career that many believed would have been genre-changing. The 23-year-old Alexandra Shipp will be filling expectant shoes, though her appearance and not-so-amateur singing ability, showcased on Nickelodeon more than once, will help. Alexandra is not new to performing music as part of her acting experience.
The executive producer of the project, Wendy Williams, made the announcement early this morning via Twitter (see below, capture thanks to Time Magazine).
I'm excited to exec produce the Aaliyah @lifetimetv movie w/ @DebraMChase. Prod starts later this month and @AlexShipppp will play Aaliyah.Although, as of this writing, Shipp has not responded on her own Twitter feed, the starlet celebrated her birthday yesterday, so this belated present must be quite a surprise for her. The only mention of the left-field choice by the girl of the hour herself is a re-tweet of a story on her own feed.
— Wendy Williams (@WendyWilliams) July 18, 2014
Photos of the young actress show Alexandra Shipp looking quite the ringer for the beautiful R&B star. Those photos, showcased on the NY Daily News, are a far more true to Aaliyah than were similar publicity photos showcasing Zendaya when she was chosen.
The film itself is sure to be the subject of critical attention due to the subject matter, the starlets involved, and the life story it's meant to portray in dramatic form.
Whatever the outcome, this is a big step for the child star who's now a young woman stretching her legs from children's television and movies. We wish Alexandra Shipp all the best in her step forward and hope she keeps her fun attitude in the process.