CASTING

Janelle Monáe Will Play Josephine Baker in a Show About Her Days as a Spy


Images of Janelle Monáe and Josephine Baker side by side

A24 has found its Josephine Baker for its upcoming drama series titled De La Resistance. On Wednesday, Deadline broke the news that Janelle Monáe has been cast as the late iconic entertainer and activist who paved the way for Black performers in France and the U.S. The indie distributor has yet to settle on which of the “multiple” streamers that are apparently fighting over rights to the package, which will focus on the years that Baker moonlit as a spy for the Allies.

Born in St. Louis in 1906, Baker, who was French, first rose to prominence in the mid 1920s, when she left America behind for Paris and became a beloved staple of the city’s cabarets and vaudeville theaters. From the storied moment she descended from a palm tree onto the stage of the Folies Bergère to perform in a skirt made of rubber bananas (and little else), the entertainer became known for her eccentric, often revealing personal style and dancing skills.

As she climbed the ranks of the Parisian social scene—Ernest Hemingway, for one, once pronounced her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw”—Baker led a double life as a spy. Monáe will portray her throughout her furtive attempts to help take down the Nazis during World War II, which were directly linked with “her experience as one of the world’s most iconic, talented and glamorous entertainers.” Baker is said to have gained her intel from eavesdropping on enemies of the Allies at parties and her performances, then passing on what she’d learned to the French Resistance by hiding notes in her underwear or writing them on her music sheets. She also served as a recruiter while traveling between countries on tour, and turned her French chateau into such a refuge for her fellow resistance fighters, the Nazis at one point paid a visit.

Monáe couldn’t be a better choice to play the star. Apart from being around the same age as Baker at the time, the 36-year-old actor and musician shares Baker’s proclivities for activism and out-there personal and performing style. All in all, it sounds like the perfect role for Monáe to get back into Hollywood after writing her new Afrofuturist novel, The Memory Librarian. Seeing as A24 has yet to announce a release date for De La Resistance, it seems like we’ll first them return to the screen in Knives Out 2.