Ariana Neal will play the lead role in ABC Family’s upcoming sitcom Nicki, the network announced Friday, along with a host of other cast additions for the series inspired by rapper Nicki MInaj’s childhood.
The Grammy-winning recording artist announced in September that she would executive-produce and star in a sitcom for ABC Family (soon to be Freeform). In November, Minaj announced open online auditions for the cast of her series. In tweets and Instagram posts, Minaj made clear that she hand-picked the cast herself, which will consist of Neal (Fruitvale Station, Get Hard) as the young Nicki Minaj, Selita Ebanks (Real Husbands of Hollywood) as Minaj’s mother Grace, Wesley Jonathan (What I Like About You, The Soul Man) as Minaj’s father Vincent, and McCarrie McCausland (The Originals, Army Wives) as Minaj’s older brother Jaylen. Additionally, Whoopi Goldberg will guest-star as the family’s neighbor Miss Martha.
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As the title character, Neal will likely carry the majority of the story, but she’s more than up for the task. Not only has she proved her dramatic and comedic acting chops in critical darling Fruitvale Station and the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard, but she’s also had experience playing the childhood version of a famous rapper, as seen in VH1’s CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, where she portrayed a young Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. On top of all that, she can sing!
Minaj is clearly a fan of Neal’s as well, having gushed about her in an Instagram post on Friday, admitting she “literally cried watching her taped audition.”
I literally cried watching her taped audition. I demanded to meet her! Sat in a room with her teaching her how to rap by doing a beat on the table & forcing her to stay on beat! Lol. Then pulled out all the attitude she had in her lil body. Haha! She’s tough! And so sweet & cute. #ArianaNeal #LilNicki Welcome to the family lil lady bug! #ABCFamily #Freeform #Nicki
I am honored and excited to announce that I’ve literally hand picked the main characters of my scripted series “Nicki” ~ #ABCFamily #Freeform ~ I’ve been going to the auditions falling in love with some incredible people. Looking forward to unveiling this groundbreaking new show for you guys in 2016!