B.B. King’s Estate Denies Wendell Pierce Is Approved For Film, Still Considering Kenan Thompson
Last week, actor Wendell Pierce — probably best known for his role on The Wire — announced that he would be portraying B.B. King in a film about the late blues legend’s life. But the B.B. King estate recently told TMZ that they’re “furious” that Wendell said he was performing in what was then described as a biopic and that he has not been approved by the estate. Other actors are still being considered for an authorized B.B. King role, apparently, including Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson.
Pierce has been attached to star in the project since at least 2009, according to what producer and co-writer Michael Zanetis told TMZ. This is not the first time Zanetis’ project has run into legal problems with King and his estate. In 2012, Zanetis sued B.B. King while he was still alive after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from King’s representatives over the film, which was then titled B.B. King And I. But both Pierce and Zanetis say they received King’s blessing for the film before he died in 2015.
The film, which is now called The Thrill Is On, reportedly focuses on the friendship between King and Zanetis, who had a three-decade-long friendship with King and was behind his push to get a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Earlier this week, Pierce took to Twitter to clarify the film’s scope at the request of the B.B. King estate: “It is a dramatized version of a real-life friendship story in the spirit of the film ROUND MIDNIGHT. The friendship of 2 musicians, one being the King of the Blues. As I stated before, and nothing has changed: I promised BB King before he died, I will honor him and his creative genius. An American Icon.”