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Mahershala Ali to play boxer Jack Johnson in HBO series

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Mahershala Ali to play boxer Jack Johnson in HBO series
Mahershala Ali will return to HBO in the limited series "Unruly," produced by Tom Hanks. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI | License Photo

July 1 (UPI) -- Mahershala Ali will play boxing legend Jack Johnson in a new HBO series.

Deadline reported Tuesday that Ali, 46, will star in Unruly, a limited series based on Ken Burns' PBS documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson and Geoffrey C. Ward's companion book.

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The six-episode series recounts how Johnson became the world's first Black heavyweight boxing champion. Johnson, nicknamed the "Gavelston Giant," lived from 1878 to 1946.

"This bold exploration depicts the champion's rise to athletic greatness and the costs he paid for his skin and defiance, which created a blueprint for Black resistance in every justice movement for generations to come," an official synopsis reads.

Playwright Dominique Morriseau will write the script and serve as an executive producer. Ali will co-executive produce with Tom Hanks and Beau Willimon.

Ali previously portrayed Johnson in a 2000 stage production of The Great White Hope. He told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 that Johnson and Marvin Gaye are his dream roles.

"There are so many wonderful characters out there," he said. "Marvin Gaye and Jack Johnson are my dream roles, but I really just want the opportunity to go on the hero's journey. I've never done that."

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Ali played Wayne Hays in Season 2 of the HBO series True Detective. He is also known for portraying Remy Danton on House of Cards and Sheikh Ali on Ramy.

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