July 23rd marks the two year anniversary of the death of bestselling author, E. Lynn Harris. His death sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the Black LGBT community as the announcement went out that the author of 12 novels died suddenly the night before of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles at the age of 54. In 1991, he self-publishing his first book, “Invisible Life;” and sold the book from his car before signing a deal with a publisher in 1994. With the release of his first book, the openly gay author’s star rose as he went on to sell over four million books before his passing. Proteus Spann of Proteus E2 Productions has acquired the rights to the extensive library of novels by Harris. Spann along with Tracey Edmonds of Edmonds Entertainment, Shelia Ducksworth, Glendon Palmer and Javon Johnson as co-producers will develop all of Harris’ novels into feature films. Spann recently sat with PrideIndex to discuss this exciting venture.
PRIDEINDEX: The untimely death of E. Lynn Harris caught everyone by surprise, why do you feel it is so important to bring “Invisible Life” to the big screen?
PROTEUS SPANN: It’s a project that I believe in; I’m determined to see it happen. The book influenced me so much that when I first read it I gave copies away as gifts to young men and women to try to get them to understand their sexuality and how the decisions they make will affect themselves, friends and family. The underlying theme of the book was that coming out did not have to be a negative thing. You don’t have to turn away from the church, your family or others. The movie is something that I’m passionate about, I’m determined to see it happen just as E. Lynn was.
PI: Will the release of “Invisible Life” the movie be a turning point for Black Cinema in general?
PS: Yes I hope “Invisible Life” the movie will be a turning point for Black Cinema. Thus far Black Cinema for the masses has shied away from the issues of black gay sexuality; if we do our jobs right “Invisible Lives” will open the door to avenues for discussion. We’re doing to do an Epic film based on the Epic book.
PI: Highly popular with women, will Harris’ novels cross over into mainstream success with its various themes of fidelity, sexuality, religion, family love and family acceptance?
PS: E. Lynn Harris would say that 70% of his fan base was women. He would say that that it is important for women to know who they are and who they were sleeping with. Tracey Edmonds and my other co-producers will be conscious to this. We will stay true to the book and it’s themes of sexuality.
PI: When do expect to have it in theaters?
PS: Our goal is to have it released in the spring or summer of 2012. Then we’re going to produce the Broadway caliber stage production 3 months later.
PI: Is there a timetable to release all of Harris’ books on the big screen?
PS: I’ve purchased the rights to all E. Lynn Harris books and plan to produce each film in the same order the original books were released. I plan on working on the next film adaption shortly after the previous movie is done and in the can. I’m completely open to the possibility of making these films for the big and small screen for television.
PI: Has the casting process for the film begun, if so what can you tell us about it?
PS: The casting process has not begun yet; we’re working on developing the script right now. It is going to be a challenge to cast some of the characters many of them are in their 20’s. E. Lynn did not believe in the Hollywood in the system. He understood that there were far too few actors in their 20’s that might be right for the parts in his film. We will adapt.
PI: Briefly tell us about your first meeting with E. Lynn Harris?
PS: I first met him through a mutual acquaintance. It was about 14 years ago after I read “Invisible Lives” I begged our mutual friend to introduce me to E. Lynn Harris and he finally did. The intro took place at a party, Harris was most gracious, and he was an all around happy person.
PI: How did you become involved in this project?
PS: The process started in LA 5-6 years ago around Jan 2005. When I first started this project I wanted to do a stage play. I spent a lot time and resources developing a play and hired Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson to write the music for it. Jovan Johnson is my co-writer and Stanley Bennett Clay wrote some of the lyrics.
PI: Tell us about your professional background.
PS: I grew up poor and had a goal to attend college. I am from New York, attended Syracuse University and worked for the Department of Defense which allowed me to travel the world. I repositioned myself to be an actor, I was in the TV series Oz and The Guiding Light. I also did some print and runway modeling. Before I met Jackie Brown Karmen a casting director. I helped her with Boyz In The Hood, Waiting to Exhale Jackie Brown, the HBO movie The Corner, Disappearing Act then later Soul Food (the TV series) New York casting.
PI: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
PS: E. Lynn Harris entrusted me to oversee this project, he really loved the movie Love Jones so we brought in Ted Witcher, movie’s the writer, to work on this project. “Invisible Life” is an important resource, a bible of sorts that helped people to understand their sexuality and the movie is going to be the same an epic movie.
To follow more developments of “Invisible Life” the movie visit Welcome to – The E. Lynn Harris Brand a Franchise of Film+Television+Theater (elynnharrisbrand.com)