1. The first installment of BET’s New Edition Story – a scripted miniseries about the rise, fall, and eventual reunion of the iconic singing group – aired Tuesday and it’s already hitting all the right notes.
2. Seriously, New Edition Story is on its way to being the best black TV biopic since The Jacksons: An American Dream aired on ABC in 1992.
It doesn’t skimp on the production, it takes the time to tell New Edition’s full story in three two-hour episodes, and it also got permission from all six members of New Edition to tell their story and use their music. Each group member is a producer on the miniseries and they were all there behind-the-scenes to coach the actors that play them.
3. And Twitter noticed the difference.
We need to gon head & put this in the black r&b movie vault w/ Temptations, Five Heartbeats, & The Jacksons An American Dream #NewEditionBET
— kym_lenna (@KymLenna)
When a TV movie has all the rights to the original music and you have the groups blessing. #NewEditionBET… https://t.co/TKmYrb1yku
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry)
5. The casting has also really sets New Edition Story apart. The young men selected to play the group members in their adolescence each nail their characters in the most adorable way.
“Each of them had a bit of the real person in them,” casting director Robi Reed told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. “I believe people are born to play roles, and this holds true for all the young men in the movie.”
6. Caleb McLaughlin, who you may recognize from Netflix’s Stranger Things, plays young Ricky Bell.
McLaughlin was actually the last young group member to be cast in the miniseries. “I wanted to do a final sweep to make sure we didn’t miss anyone,” Reed said. “I got sent his audition tape and knew he was perfect for Ricky. It was his eyes — they sparkled. He has the kind of charisma that lights up a camera.”
7. Dante Hoagland and Jahi Di’Allo Winston play Michael Bivins and Ralph Tresvant.
Hoagland has appeared on shows like NBC’s 30 Rock and Winston played young Simba on Broadway prior to landing the role. Both were found at the New York casting call.
“Dante was as quirky as quirky could be,” said Reed. “But the way he spoke let me know he was a Michael in the making.”
When it came time to look for Ralph, New Edition’s lead singer, Reed said she “really wanted someone who could sing.” “All the other boys were singing songs like ‘Candygirl’ for their audition, but Jahi sang ‘This Is the End’ and when he was done, he asked me if he could sing Adele’s ‘Hello’ for me too,” Reed said.
8. Newcomers Myles Truitt and Tyler Marcel Williams play Ronnie DeVoe and Bobby Brown.
Both Truitt and Williams were found at a theater school in Atlanta.
“Myles had the height we needed for Ronnie, but his ability to be confident without being cocky also stood out to me,” said Reed.
“I knew from the moment he said ‘hello’ that Tyler was Bobby,” she remembered. “He was confident, charismatic, and he had really done his research when it came time for the improv portion of the audition. He also looks just like Bobby!”
9. The resemblance between Williams and Brown is especially jaw-dropping…
I’m convinced this little boy is actually Bobby Brown’s son. Hell it might even be Bobby himself. #NewEditionBET
— Oh, THAT Charles (@CharlesFromWork)
That little boy looks smack like Bobby Brown! #NewEditionBET
— Kamie Crawford (@TheRealKamie)
The reason this boy who’s playing Bobby Brown is perfectly cast is I didn’t trust him on sight.
— Jozen (say Joe-Zen) (@jozenc)
13. He’s clearly been trained by the “king of R&B” himself.
Look at that body roll!
14. And Williams isn’t the only one who impresses.
EXCELLENT casting, BET! #NewEditionBET
— ♀ (@MakeupJunkie_AC)
MANY PROPS for the young boys who played @NewEdition. They were so good that I’m sorry to see them grow up. #NewEditionBET
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie)
Kid got the Ralph head tilt DOWN! Ain’t no Ralph without that head/Body tilt #NewEdition
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu)
Aww, bravo, baby New Edition actors! You killed it! #NewEditionBET
— JamilahIsoke Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux)
18. The positive reaction and high ratings — 4.4 million viewers for Tuesday’s premiere — are a testament to how much work went in to making sure the young actors got it right.
Once they narrowed each part down to 2 to 3 actors, BET flew the actors to LA for a bootcamp. There, they worked with choreographers to show off their dancing skills and vocalists, including Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, to make sure their singing was up to par. The week ended with a screen test for the network, which is what they used to make the final selection.
“We knew this was a big undertaking and we wanted to do right by everyone,” said Reed. “The reals,” as she referred the actual New Edition members (the New Edition actors were called the “littles” and the “bigs” on set), “all said we got it right, and it meant a lot to me to be able to do right by them.”