Higher Ground Productions, founded by former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama, is set to produce Rustin for Netflix as part of their overall deal with the streamer. The new biopic will tell the story of Bayard Rustin, the late civil rights activist who will be played by Colman Domingo. Here’s everything you need to know.
Netflix’s Rustin will be directed by Emmy nominee George C. Wolfe who worked on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for Netflix, which starred the late Chadwick Boseman.
The script for Rustin was written by Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for 2008’s Milk starring Sean Penn.
Cinematography on the project is being done by Tobias Schliessler (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and A Wrinkle in Time) with costume design by Toni-Leslie James.
Netflix provided our very first look at Rustin on August 4th, 2022:
What is the release date of Rustin?
Rustin was originally included in the 2022 slate reveal, but as the year progressed, it became increasingly clear that it would be skipping a 2022 release. Instead, Netflix has since provided (via social media) that the movie has shifted to 2023.
That was confirmed again in January 2023 as part of the 2023 movie slate reveal.
Now, thanks to an update to Netflix’s 2023 slate document, we know Rustin is scheduled to release globally on November 17th, 2023. It’s also getting a limited theatrical release starting on November 3rd, 2023.
What is the plot of Rustin?
Netflix’s Rustin is a film based on the life of late civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, a strategist and activist promoting nonviolent strategies for social change for over half a century. He’s best known for organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the platform for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
His work was sometimes hampered by many considered controversial pasts, including membership in the Young Communist League; a three-year prison term for refusal to cooperate with the military on conscientious grounds; and his open homosexuality, including an arrest for lewd vagrancy.
Senator Strom Thurmond denounced Rustin on the Senate floor prior to the 1963 march. Rustin died in 1987 following a visit to Haiti, where he explored the possibility of democratic change in conjunction with a pending election.
President Obama posthumously awarded Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Who is cast in Netflix’s Rustin?
In July 2021, we heard that Colman Domingo was being eyed for the lead role, which is now confirmed.
Domingo is best known for appearing in Fear The Walking Dead, Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Candyman.
In October 2021, the lid was lifted on the full cast list for Netflix’s Rustin.
Here’s a rundown of who will be starring:
- Colman Domingo (Lincoln) as Bayard Rustin
- CCH Pounder (The Shield) as Dr. Anna Hedgeman
- Bill Irwin (Rachel Getting Married) as A.J. Muste
- Aml Ameen (The Maze Runner) as Martin Luther King Jr.
- Carra Patterson (Straight Outta Compton) as Coretta Scott King
- Michael Potts (Show Me a Hero) as Cleveland Robinson
- Adrienne Warren (Blue Bloods) as Claudia Taylor
- Frank Harts (Billions) as James Farmer
- Johnny Ramey (Rage Room) as Elias Taylor
- Ayana Workman (Person of Interest) as Elanor Holmes
- Gus Halper (Dickinson, Cold Pursuit) as Tom
- Chris Rock (Stand-up, Top Five, Fargo) as Roy Wilkins
- Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name)
- Audra McDonald (Beauty and the Beast) as Ella Baker
- Glynn Turman (Super 8) as A. Philip Randolph
- Jordan-Amanda Hall (Wu-Tang: An American Saga) as Charlene
What’s the production status of Rustin?
Netflix’s Rustin biopic was first set to enter production in the Summer of 2021 according to issue 1253 of Production Weekly. Filming would eventually go on to take place in Pittsburgh and Ohio.
Filming was then scheduled to start in August 2021 before wrapping up in December. Actual filming seemed to have started slightly later than planned in September 2021. As a result, reports have suggested that filming will be ongoing until the middle of December. According to reports, filming wrapped on December 12th, 2021. The movie did go on to have additional shoots in mid-2022 (more on this down below).
In October 2021, Colman Domingo spoke to 100.7 Star in Pittsburgh about the film. He spoke about the scale of the film, saying how the production is recruiting thousands of extras saying:
“We need thousands of background (actors). And we don’t even call them background on our show. They’re called atmosphere artists. We need a lot of people, a lot of bodies. Black, white, old, young… I always think being an atmosphere artist is great training ground. You can see how a set operates…”
According to TribLive, Netflix recruited 2,000 extras for the movie.
Throughout the course of the movie, we’ve seen various eyewitnesses catching filming, including the Port Authority of Pittsburgh notifying everyone that while most bus routes are being diverted, some slightly older busses were taking their place on sixth avenue.
— Pittsburgh Regional Transit (@PGHtransit) October 25, 2021
Joshua Alexrod from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted an article akin to ours here with a few new shots from behind the scenes.
Additional filming for Rustin took place in August 2022 in Washington DC. That additional filming concluded on August 12th, 2022 with Colmon Domingo confirming on Instagram.
In the post, he said:
“If I could describe a feeling of an epic undertaking, it’s in this capture. What a privilege to stand in this man’s shoes and walk with so many brilliant artists behind and in front of the camera to tell his story. Today after almost a year is a picture wrap on me as Bayard Rustin. I can’t wait to share this monumental film “Rustin” with you in 2023.”
Are you looking forward to watching Rustin on Netflix? Let us know in the comments down below.