'Solitary': Mahershala Ali Eyes Role In True-Life Prison Drama

Mahershala Ali may have found his next award-worthy role. The Oscar-winning actor of Moonlight and Green Book is eyeing a role in Solitary, a prison drama based on Albert Woodfox's harrowing memoir detailing the record four decades he spent in solitary confinement. Read about Ali potentially taking on the role of Woodfox in the Solitary movie cast below.Deadline broke the news that Ali is eying the lead role in the true-life prison drama Solitary, which Fox Searchlight is currently making a deal to acquire. Ali is attached to be executive producer of the film with the intention of playing Woodfox, whom he met in New Orleans after reading his book. No director is attached yet.

Woodfox's memoir, published in 2019, chronicles how he was forced into solitary confinement for 43 years — the longest time for any person in the U.S. — following the 1972 murder of a prison guard for which he claims he was falsely convicted. Woodfox's solitary confinement (a practice that he been denounced as inhumane by many organizations) consisted of 23 hours in a 6-by-9 foot cell, with one hour a day in a fenced concrete "exercise yard."

Here's the synopsis from Albert Woodfox's memoir, Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope:

Arrested often as a teenager in New Orleans, inspired behind bars in his early twenties to join the Black Panther Party because of its social commitment and code of living, Albert was serving a fifty-year sentence in Angola for armed robbery when on April 17, 1972, a white guard was killed. Albert and another member of the Panthers were accused of the crime and immediately put in solitary confinement by the warden. Without a shred of actual evidence against them, their trial was a sham of justice that gave them life sentences in solitary. Decades passed before Albert gained a lawyer of consequence; even so, sixteen more years and multiple appeals were needed before he was finally released in February 2016.

It's a disturbing, harrowing real-life tale that would be difficult to stomach onscreen. But if Ali ends up taking the role, it could result in another potential award-worthy performance from the actor, who has been on a hot streak since his Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for Moonlight, earning Emmy nods for his work on House of Cards and last year winning another Oscar trophy for Green Book. He's now in Emmy contention yet again for his work on the third season of the HBO series True Detective.