Amazon Casts ‘black-ish’ Star in American Girl Special

Amazon Studios has cast Marsai Martin, star on ABC comedy black-ish, as the lead in its American Girl special Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win, an American GirlStory. The special, executive produced by Common, premieres on Amazon Prime Video this fall.

Based in 1963 Detroit amidst the civil rights movement, Melody will also star Frances Fisher, Frankie Faison and Idara Victor.

The project is written and executive produced by Alison McDonald (Roots), directed and produced by Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned, Queen Sugar), and executive produced by Common’s Freedom Road Productions. Christopher Keenan and Melinda McCrocklin are executive producers for American Girl.

The Melody special is an adaptation of American Girl’s original stories written by Denise Lewis Patrick. The online retailer and the doll franchise are featuring Melody dolls and accessories in Amazon’s American Girl-branded store.

Martin plays the youngest daughter Diane on black-ish. She recently worked on the films How To Die Happy and Fun Mom Dinner.

Amazon Studios and Mattel’s American Girl plan to produce four live-action specials, with an option to extend to multiple seasons. Two specials, including Melody, will feature characters from the BeForever franchise and one will feature characters from the Girl of the Year franchise.

When the deal was announced earlier this year, Tara Sorensen, head of kids programming, Amazon Studios, said American Girl encourages self-confidence, adventure and learning. “Their research dives deep and adds rich layers to the IP that are unparalleled in this space which, in turn, will facilitate a truly enriched on-screen experience,” she added.

American Girl sells the Melody doll and accompanying book for $115.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.