Nicki Minaj took to Instagram Friday to reveal who will portray her family in the upcoming Freeform series Nicki, a sitcom about the rapper’s childhood growing up in Queens in the 1990s. Fruitvale Station‘s Ariana Neal plays young Nicki on the show, while model Selita Ebanks and City Guys actor Wesley Jonathan were cast as Minaj’s parents. Whoopi Goldberg features in a guest-starring role as the Minaj’s neighbor Miss Martha. Minaj, who serves as the show’s executive producer, will also appear on Nicki occasionally in an unspecified role.
“I am honored and excited to announce that I’ve literally handpicked the main characters of my scripted series Nicki,” Minaj wrote of her Freeform né ABC Family show. “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.”
Director Tim Story will helm the Nicki pilot, which films this month in Queens. Kate Angelo (Sex Tape, The Back-Up Plan) penned the series’ pilot. Actor McCarrie McCausland also plays Nicki’s older brother Jaylen on the series. Nicki has not yet set its premiere date.
In another Instagram post, Minaj opened up about why she chose Neal to portray young Nicki. “I literally cried watching her taped audition. I demanded to meet her,” the rapper wrote. “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 and cute.”
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