Director Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned, Queen Sugar) is set to direct and produce Amazon’s live-action special Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win, an American Girl Story starring Black-ish star Marsai Martin.

Set in 1963 Detroit during the civil rights movement, the special revolves around 10-year-old Melody (Martin), whose eyes are opened to the racial inequality surrounding her, including the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing. As a result, her belief in the “indivisible” promise of our country’s Pledge of Allegiance comes into question as she challenges her teacher on the validity of this given the horrific tragedy. After an emotional journey of self-reflection, her mother gives her the courage she needs by reminding her that it’s important to “stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard or scary.”

The Melody special is an Amazon adaptation on American Girl’s original created stories written by Denise Lewis Patrick. The project falls under a multi-year, multi-million dollar production deal Amazon inked earlier this year with Mattel subsidiary American Girl to produce four live-action specials based on the company’s popular American Girl line of dolls and books.  Common will executive produce through his Freedom Road Productions alongside Christopher Keenan and Melinda McCrocklin for American Girl.

Martin plays the sassy youngest daughter “Diane” on ABC’s Emmy nominated comedy Black-ish, alongside Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne. Her work on the award-winning show has earned her a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Young Artists Award for Best Performance in a TV Series. Marsai most recently performed in the 35th Anniversary Celebration of the Tony-winning musical Dreamgirls with the original stars (Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine and Jennifer Holliday), singing the hit song “Move.” Marsai also recently worked on the films How To Die Happy with Meagan Good, andFun Mom Dinner, with Toni Collette and Adam Levine.

Mabry was named one of ’25 New Faces of Indie Film’ by Filmmaker Magazine and among the ‘Top Forty Under 40’ by Advocate Magazine following the release of her critically acclaimed first feature film Mississippi Damned (2009). The film was successful on the festival circuit, winning top prizes at the Chicago International Film Festival, Outfest, American Black Film Festival, and Urbanworld Film Festival. It premiered on Showtime in 2011 and is currently streaming on Netflix courtesy of Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY.  Most recently Mabry served as a producer, director, and writer on OWN’s upcoming series Queen Sugar.

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