Citing a scheduling conflict, Justin Timberlake has bowed out as co-host of ABC-TV’s upcoming “Motown 45” special. “Motown 45” executive producer Jeff Margolis said in a statement that Timberlake “gladly accepted” when asked to host, but a prior commitment to a feature film has forced him to withdraw.
“He has cancelled all television appearances through the end of April to allow him to concentrate on making the movie,” Margolis says. Timberlake is slated to star with Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and LL Cool J in “Edison,” in which he plays a journalist who uncovers police corruption.
Timberlake was to have shared co-hosting duties for the two-hour tribute with Lionel Richie. At press time it was unclear whether Timberlake will be replaced. The singer/songwriter had faced criticism from the black community following his participation in the Super Bowl incident with Janet Jackson.
The announcement follows a national e-mail, fax and phone campaign launched by a coalition of African-American organizations protesting Timberlake’s involvement. “The selection of Timberlake as co-host of this Motown special is a cultural insult to the black community,” said Project Islamic HOPE executive director Najee Ali in a press release issued last week. “This special, celebrating the success of the legendary music label, should not be compromised in the pursuit of a crossover audience.”
Performances for the special–featuring current acts and Motown stars performing classic Motown songs–will be confirmed within the next two weeks. Sources say Mary J. Blige, the Temptations and Four Tops are among the performers lined up thus far and that an offer is also out to Janet Jackson.
“Motown 45” is slated to be taped April 4 at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium. ABC plans to air the special in May.