During Grammys weekend, news broke that sometimes controversial rapper Lil Mama would take on the role of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in a TLC biopic. Shortly after, burgeoning actress Keke Palmer revealed that she would fill the role of Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas. In an official statement, VH1 completed the trifecta casting with Drew Sidora as the “cool” T-Boz. Although the three seem like reasonable cast choices, the Twittersphere has spoken and they are not impressed. Keke has already had to defend herself against critics who have gone as far as saying she doesn’t have the “perfect baby hair texture.” (Yes, really.)
So why are so many of us in a tizzy over the future television movie? After all, biographical films are nothing new. Just after “talkies” were invented, 1929’s Disraeli, the story of British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, was widely considered the first of its kind. Since then, hundreds of biopics have coalesced, eventually developing into its own genre. Whether they’re amazing (Ray), sub par (Notorious), or simply terrible (Alexander), the common thread they all share is timing. Like Keke Palmer tweeted to her haters, looking like your character is irrelevant, though it does help some. Oscar winner Halle Berry not only nailed her portrayal of Dorothy Dandridge in 1999–they also looked strikingly similar. On the other end, Angela Bassett, who looked nothing like Tina Turner, was still able to capture Anna Mae’s quiet confidence in What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Keke, Lil Mama and Drew Sidora are all capable of capturing the energetic spirit of a girl group. Keke’s acting is respected by many and she already has one biopic under her belt with Lifetime‘s “The Carlina White Story.” Though Drew has only had bit parts in films (Step Up, White Chicks) and guest appearances on TV shows (The Game), her musical background will work in her favor. Lil Mama, the most controversial casting, is better known for stage-crashing the VMA’s instead of her underwhelming rap career (so far). Though she’s considered a joke to many Twitter commentators, we think she’ll use this opportunity to earn respect from her peers and fans.
The casting isn’t the issue. It’s just too soon. Although Left Eye died tragically in a car accident over 10 years ago, T-Boz and Chilli are allegedly still moving and shaking in the music world, with whispers of a new TLC album being heard. Why are we putting a nail in the career coffin already?
Biopics work when 1. the subject is near the end of his/her career or 2. the subject’s story isn’t related to music or entertainment. For instance, Ray took almost 20 years to make because of financing and important decisions like choosing a director and actors. Although Charles, who died right before its premiere, was still releasing new music, his career had already spanned 50 years. Notorious isn’t exactly a cinematic home run, but, it worked because B.I.G.’s career had come to an end a long time ago, leaving space for his story to be told through film.
Biopics have historically alluded to the end of something. What’s Love Got To Do With It? displayed the end of Tina’s suffering at the hands of Ike. For Ray, it was the end of a crippling drug addiction. What will this TLC biopic represent? According to sources, it will cover TLC’s journey through the release of Crazy, Sexy, Cool. But what about the years after? T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli went on to have many ups and downs after 1994, including the release of Fanmail and global hit “No Scrubs.” And if the two remaining members’ opinions are any indication, TLC is far from being a thing of the past. We’ll be tuned in, but will we be satisfied?