Uzo Aduba, Sanaa Lathan, Aunjanue Ellis in the last feature to shoot in Wilmington

The actresses play three friends in “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat,” which is in pre-production in Wilmington. (Courtesy photos)

WILMINGTON — Last week, Johnny Griffin, the director of the Wilmington Film Commission, revealed to the Port City Daily that another feature film will soon be landing in the area. On Monday, the commission’s website had a Temple Hill Entertainment and Searchlights Pictures project listed in pre-production.

“The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” is based on the 2013 New York Times bestselling novel by Chicago writer and cellist Edward Kelsey Moore (he also wrote a sequel, “The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues”). The story begins in the 1960s and follows Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean – nicknamed “The Supremes” – who meet weekly at a local restaurant in Plainview, Indiana.

READ MORE: $7 million movie discounts announced for 2 ongoing Wilmington projects

Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is the city’s first black-owned business, a haven and respite where friends can gather and share their lives and the lives of the townspeople. Their stories swing between high school years past and their current adulthood and show insight into the resilience and obstacles they face along the way.

The book was chosen as a film in 2020 with a script by Gina Prince-Bythewood – who did “Love & Basketball” at the start. The film inspired writer and director Tina Mabry to enter the film industry. Known for her work on FX’s Emmy Award-winning “Pose,” Marby made her acclaimed directorial debut in 2009’s “Mississippi Damned.”

In 2020, Variety announced that the two would be teaming up to make “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat”. Yet the whispers of their collaboration actually started two years earlier at Slamdance. Prince-Bythewood and Marby teased in an alumni interview that they would be working together, specifically on “The Supremes” screenplay, which Prince-Bythewood had already written at the time.

“But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to direct, and the question came up, ‘Who should direct it? And who do you trust?'” she told Marby during the interview. “I have an extremely small list, but you, [Tina,] were at the top.

Several media have revealed the cast of “The Supremes”: Uzo Aduba, Sanaa Lathan and Aunjanue Ellis will play the role of three best friends. It’s unclear what roles each will take on at this time.

Emmy Award-winning Aduba is best recognized as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in “Orange is the New Black.” She scored another Emmy for her role as Shirley Chisolm in “Mrs. America,” starring Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne.

The feature marks Aduba’s return to Wilmington; a few months ago, she was chosen for “Problem with Providence”. The independent feature – a dark comedy, also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lily James – wrapped in June in Southport.

READ MORE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lily James to film black comedy in Southport

Ellis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress this year as tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams in ‘King Richard,’ also starring Will Smith. His next film will be with director Lee Daniel (“The United States against Billie Holiday”) in “The Deliverance”, with Glenn Close and Mo’Nique.

Lathan made his debut in Prince-Bythewood’s “Love & Basketball” two decades ago. She recently appeared as attorney Lisa Arthurs on the third season of HBO’s “Succession” and as Harley Quinn on the TV series “Catwoman.”

Other characters to fill out the storyline include friends’ husbands and children, restaurant owner Earl, as well as other eccentric residents of Plainsville. No other star powers have yet been revealed.

“The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” is one of the few projects being filmed in Wilmington. STARZ’s “Hightown” is wrapping up third season, while Amazon’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is underway for second season, as is FOX’s second season of “Welcome to Flatch.” The indie feature “Eric LaRue,” directed by Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon, is also in production.

More may be in the works for the region, according to Griffin. “We have a few projects that we’re waiting to see whether or not they get a ‘green light’ to start,” he said.

During Monday’s town council briefing, he told council that more than 600 people were currently working in local industry. So far, more than $200 million has been spent by productions, and Wilmington is expected to provide more than $32 million in incentives, as part of the North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grants.

The refund potential for “The Supremes” has not been disclosed by the NC Film Office. State Office Director Guy Gaster said they don’t disclose the economic impact on pending projects.

“If and when a project is approved for the film grant, and the project formally accepts the offer, the Department of Commerce will make an announcement,” he said.


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