Diddy Brings Broadway Classic To TV

Monday night (Feb. 25th) marks the premiere of television's second incarnation of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin In The Sun," this time starring entertainment mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs. Combs will reprise his role as Walter Lee alongside Tony award-winning actresses Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald, as well as the Tony nominated Sanaa Lathan. All four actors were part of the 2004 Broadway version that marked Combs theatrical debut.

Despite previous roles in Monster's Ball and Made, Combs received mixed reviews for his Broadway performance; however, both he and his co-stars say the televised version of "A Raisin in the Sun" will reflect his growth as an actor.

"It was more about experience and an understanding of how to completely engulf yourself and become a character and really give yourself up to the role," Combs told the Associated Press. "It was almost like what was going on in the house, that struggle to be heard. I wanted to make sure my character was heard."

"What I saw was a natural progression that comes with the doing of it, with the working of it," Phylicia Rashad said. "He is a very disciplined professional."

Set in Chicago, "A Raisin in the Sun," tells the story of the Younger family, mother Lena (Rashad) her daughter Beneatha (Lathan), son Walter Lee (Combs) and his wife (McDonald) and their struggle over how to spend a $10,000 insurance check.

The 1959 play was the first drama by a black woman produced on Broadway and starred Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands and Louis Gossett, Jr., who reunited in 1961 to create a film version. "Raisin" was also adapted for telefilm in 1989 with Danny Glover and Ester Rolle as Walter Lee and Lena.

Emmy winner Paris Qualles ("Tuskeegee Airmen") adapted the script for Monday's ABC version from Hansberry's unpublished screenplay "Raisin," which was not used for the 1961 film.

"Lorraine Hansberry is one of those playwrights that sits in the company of August Wilson or Tennessee Williams," director Kenny Leon told the AP. " 'Raisin in the Sun' is a specific story about this African American family but has a universal appeal for all Americans."

Both the director and his cast maintained a connection with the play's original cast. Leon consulted the late Lloyd Richards, the play's first Broadway director, while Combs says he invited Poitier, the original Walter Lee, to lunch to "get his permission."

"It's like if somebody came and did Scarface. They should at least put in a courtesy call (to Al Pacino)," said Combs. "So I called him up and he was honored and he told me to do it my way."

In addition to Combs acting duties, he also executive produced "Raisin" alongside Oscar-winning "Chicago" producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

"A Raisin in the Sun" airs February 25 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.