*Gbenga Akinnagbe, best known as Marlo Stanfield’s right hand Chris Partlow in HBO’s “The Wire,” has been booked as the title character in “Heart Baby!,” from writer/director Angela Shelton.
“Heart Baby!” tells the true story of a convict named George Lee Martin who became infamous in the Tennessee prison system as an unbeatable boxer. When he is offered an opportunity at freedom in exchange for fighting for the USA in the 1984 Olympic Games, he shocks everyone by saying no.
Akinnagbe has been training for the past two months with Darrell Foster who turned Will Smith into Muhammad Ali for “Ali,” reports Deadline.com. Akinnagbe is an athlete already, having run marathons in recent years; he was also a star wrestler in college.
“This role — and the film — is undoubtedly, a game changer for Akinnagbe,” said Shelton. “The journey of getting this story ready to shoot certainly has been a priceless experience for me.”
Shelton has been friends with the real George Lee Martin for many years and followed him as he became infamous in the Tennessee prison system. He was imprisoned in the early 1980s for multiple armed robberies. He was given a compassionate release in the 1990s.
He is currently working to set up his own boxing gym to get youth off the street and working towards a dream in his community.
George co-stars include Jackson Rathbone (Twilight: Breaking Dawn), Quinton Aaron (The Blind Side), Keir O’Donnell (American Sniper), Justice Leak (Insurgent), Abe Benrubi (Bosch), Michael Badalucco (Bones) and Ann Cusack (Nightcrawler) among others.
Akinnagbe recently completed a role in “Independence Day 3: Resurgence.”