Sean “Diddy” Combs may wear many hats, but the rap mogul is determined to carve a niche for himself as a versatile actor, while exposing TV viewers to something new in the small screen adaptation of Lorraine Hansberrys play A Raisin in the Sun.
The drama, which is set in 1950s Chicago, focuses on the Younger family as they await a $10,000 insurance check. Combs plays Walter Lee Younger, a man with big dreams of using the money to help start his own business, but encounters conflict with his widowed mother, Lena (Phylicia Rashad), ambitious sister, Beneatha (Sanaa Lathan) and wife, Ruth (Audra McDonald).
For the cast, the film touches on universal themes that transcend any one issue.
“I would say its a love story,” Combs told AllHipHop.com. “Its the love of family first. No matter what even after everything is lost, youre still so blessed.”
The film generated a strong buzz after it became the first broadcast network movie to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
The small screen version of A Raisin in the Sun marks the latest adaptation of the 1959 production, which is noted for being the first play written by an African-American female playwright to be produced on Broadway.
Combs role was originally made famous by Sidney Poitier, who played the character of Walter Lee in a 1961 film version of A Raisin in the Sun.
The newest version of A Raisin in the Sun features the cast of the critically-acclaimed 2004 Broadway revival, which garnered a Tony award for Rashad and McDonald.
Although filling Poitiers shoes provided a challenges, Combs was adamant about demonstrating his commitment to the role.
“I had met with a couple of people and let them know how serious I was about it,” said the mogul, who earned respect from critics and cast mates despite mixed reviews for his stage performance. “I didnt have to oversell myself. My work spoke for itself. You know, my work ethic on just preparing kind of spoke for itself on the play.”
With Combs involved, the moguls co-star John Stamos feels the film will attract those who may not have read or seen the play.
A Raisin in the Sun director Kenny Leon said he sees the potential for his film to motivate viewers to learn about other writers.
“Some folk have never heard of Lorraine Hansberry. Some people come to see Sean Combs and they get introduced to Walter Lee Younger. They get introduced to Lorraine Hansberry,” he said. “That might make them want to go and read about other writers of the time period. It might want to make them learn more about Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and all these folks who were like artistic friends and colleagues. No one gets killed. Its all about love. Its about the strength of the family and just trying to portray the African American male in a positive light.”
A Raisin in the Sun airs at 8 p.m. ET tonight (Feb. 25) on ABC.