Rosie O'Donnell to Produce and Star in Lifetime's 'America'
13 time Emmy Award winner Rosie O'Donnell has signed on to star in and executive produce the poignant new Lifetime Original Movie, "America," premiering in February 2009. Based on E.R. Frank's book of the same name, the film follows the story of a boy named America, an emotionally vacant sixteen-year-old, who spent his entire life shuffled through the foster care system.
O'Donnell stars as a therapist who gives America the support he needs to deal with his troubled past and helps him find the courage to live. Emmy winning actress and Academy Award nominee Ruby Dee ("Decoration Day," "American Gangster") stars as Mrs. Harper, one of his caretakers while in foster care, and the only person in America's life who provided him with love and stability.
"America" reunites O'Donnell with three-time Emmy nominated producer Larry Sanitsky ("The Last Don," "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," "Paris Trout") and writer Joyce Eliason (Lifetime's "Gracie's Choice") with whom she worked on the 2005 CBS telefilm, "Riding the Bus with My Sister." Multiple Emmy Award winner Yves Simoneau ("Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," "Napoleon") will direct the Sony Pictures Television project.
In making the announcement, Tanya Lopez, Senior Vice President, Original Movies, Lifetime Networks said, "We are truly inspired by Rosie's passion for this project. She's an incredible advocate for reforming the foster care system and a strong voice for children." She added, "Rosie really understands the issue of these kids 'aging out' of the system without any resources to prepare them for life on their own and this film shines a light on this tragic crisis."
Rosie O'Donnell said, "I optioned the book America in 2002 and worked on the script for a number of years. The story has so much heart and I can only hope that by bringing the foster care system into the public's consciousness that much needed reform can be made."
In "America," Dr. Maureen Brennan (O'Donnell), a psychiatrist at a youth treatment center, encounters her newest patient, a sixteen-year-old bi-racial boy named America. Through their sessions, Dr. Brennan helps America come to terms with his roller-coaster life, which began when he was taken by authorities from his crack-addicted mother, and placed into foster care as an infant. The short time of stability in his life occurred when America lived with Mrs. Harper (Dee), the elderly nanny to one of his foster families. Later reunited with his mother, she soon abandons America and he is again placed into foster care. Lagging behind in school and full of anger, America retreats further away from society after years of sexual abuse. After attempting suicide, America is placed in a treatment center where Dr. Brennan helps him open up about his painful past and discover the support and courage he needs to get his life back on track.
Named one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" by Time Magazine for its Time 100 in 2007, Rosie O'Donnell spent a year as moderator on the 10th season of "The View."
For six years, O'Donnell was host and executive producer of the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning and nationally syndicated talk/variety series "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." In her first season in "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," O'Donnell won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host. She continued her success for five consecutive seasons by winning Daytime Emmys for both Outstanding Talk Show Host and Outstanding Talk Show. She also won a Primetime Emmy for "The 52nd Annual Tony Awards." It was recently announced that she will be returning to the small screen with her own LIVE variety show for NBC, which is currently in pre-production. NBC's "Rosie's Variety Show" will air November 26th at 8pm.
O'Donnell has a starred in wide-ranging film and television roles. In 1992, she made her feature film debut in "A League of Their Own," starring opposite Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna and went on to appear in such hits as "Sleepless in Seattle," "The Flintstones" and "Harriet the Spy." On television, she made her dramatic debut starring in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production "Riding the Bus with My Sister," directed by Angelica Huston. She recently guest starred in FX's acclaimed series, "Nip/Tuck."
A best selling author and star of the Broadway stage, O'Donnell also keeps up with cultural trends, starting her own award-winning blog (Rosie.com) where she publishes photos, artwork and corresponds directly with her fans. A tireless crusader for children, O'Donnell established the Rosie's for All Kids Foundation in 1997 and Rosie's Broadway Kids in 2003.
Stage, film and TV luminary Ruby Dee made her Broadway debut in "Anna Lucasta" and later stared on stage in "A Raisin in the Sun." Her early films include "No Way Out" and "The Jackie Robinson Story." She also starred in the Spike Lee movies, "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever." Most recently, she received her first Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role in Ridley Scott's "American Gangster." On television, Dee was a regular on "Touched by an Angel," "Guiding Light," "Roots: The Next Generations" and "The Middle Ages." She received an Emmy(R) for her work in "Decoration Day" and starred in the telefilms "The Atlanta Child Murders," "The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson" and "A Simple Wish." She also co-starred with Halle Berry in "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching God." Additionally, Dee is an accomplished writer and has contributed a weekly column to New York's Amsterdam News, co-authored the script "Up Tight!," penned the play "Twin-Bit Gardens" and published a book of poetry, Glowchild.
"America" is produced by The Sanitsky Company in association with Sony Pictures Television for Lifetime Television. Sanitsky and O'Donnell serve as executive producers. Simoneau will direct from Eliason's and O'Donnell's adaptation of the story from E.R. Frank's novel, America. David Rosemont (Lifetime's "Sex & Lies in Sin City: The Ted Binion Scandal," "The Company") will produce.
Sony Pictures Television is one of the television industry's leading content providers. It produces and distributes programming in every genre, including series, telefilms, theatrical releases and family entertainment for network and cable television, as well as first-run and off-network series for syndication. With more than 25 programs on the air, SPT boasts a program slate that includes the top-rated daytime dramas and game shows, landmark off-network series, original animated series and critically acclaimed primetime dramas, comedies and telefilms. SPT also owns one-half of cable channel GSN and is a partner in FEARnet, the premier horror/thriller website and VOD service. Sony Pictures Television oversees all of Sony Pictures Entertainment's (SPE) domestic digital distribution efforts across all electronically delivered platforms, including the internet and mobile. Sony Pictures Television, advertiser sales, is one of the premiere national advertising sales companies, handling the commercial inventory in SPT syndicated series as well as in all of SPE's digital businesses in the United States, for Sony BMG and for the Tennis Channel, and is part owner of national media sales company ITN Networks, Inc. SPT (www.sonypicturestelevision.com) is a Sony Pictures Entertainment company.
Lifetime is the leader in women's television and one of the top-rated basic cable television networks. A diverse, multi-media company, Lifetime is committed to offering the highest quality entertainment and information programming, and advocating a wide range of issues affecting women and their families. Lifetime Television, Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime Real Women and Lifetime Digital (including myLifetime.com) are part of Lifetime Entertainment Services, a 50/50 joint venture of Hearst Corporation and The Walt Disney Company.
Photo Credit Eckstein/Retna Ltd.