No need to be surprised if you see Mos Def around

Actor in the area shooting HBO film

December 17, 2003|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Was that Mos Def who just walked by?

Could have been. The rapper, Broadway star and film actor is in Baltimore for the shooting of an HBO movie about a Johns Hopkins doctor and his lab assistant.

Titled Something the Lord Made, the film is based on the 35-year professional relationship and friendship between cardiologist Alfred Blalock (played by Alan Rickman) and his research assistant, Vivien Thomas (played by Mos Def). The men, who died in 1964 and 1985 respectively, together developed a method to save oxygen-deprived "blue babies."

In 1944, when they made their discovery, Blalock - a white man who was already famous for his work at Vanderbilt University on the treatment of traumatic shock - received all the recognition. Thomas, an African-American who never attended medical school, initially was overlooked. A television documentary, called Partners of the Heart, detailing their story aired on PBS earlier this year.

Mos Def gained fame as a rapper in 1999 after releasing the hip-hop album Black on Both Sides. His Hollywood credits include Monster's Ball, the 2001 movie starring Halle Barry, and The Italian Job, a 2003 film starring Mark Wahlberg, among others. On Broadway, Mos Def starred in the Tony-nominated Broadway production TopDog/Underdog.

Mos Def prepared for the part by meeting with Hopkins' doctors and reading medical texts, said Gary Stevenson, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

"He asked very thoughtful, good questions," said Stevenson. "He wanted to know exactly how a scalpel was held, whether Vivien had any health problems. ... He's very sensitive and wants to do justice to the characters."

Plans call for the HBO film crew to spend two days at the Johns Hopkins medical facilities and one at the university's Homewood campus. A significant portion of the filming will take place in Carroll County at Springfield Hospital Center. Filming began early last week - and will last till the end of January, according to an HBO spokeswoman.

Joseph Sargent is directing the film, which also features Gabrielle Union and is scheduled to air next year.

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