Who Plays Aaliyah in Lifetime's Biopic? Alexandra Shipp Makes The Jump From TV Guest Star to Pop Star

Lifetime is on a biopic roll — this year alone, the network has given us The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story, The Brittany Murphy Story, and now Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B , airing Saturday night, based on the life of the late great pop singer Aaliyah Haughton. With filming TV movie biopics comes great responsibility — for great casting. Who plays the famous names can truly make or break a tell-all telepic. Teen pop sensation Zendaya was initially cast, but dropped out and newcomer Alexandra Shipp has stepped in to play Aaliyah.

The 23-year-old Phoenix native will play Aaliyah, who died at 22 in a plane crash. At 17, Shipp moved from Arizona to Los Angeles to pursue acting and singing once she booked a role in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakwell. "I thought, 'Well, I'm just going to move to LA and become famous. Squeakwell is going to launch me to that point,'" Shipp told The Arizona Republic. "Well, I didn't end up working for like three years afterward. That's kind of the name of the game."

But then her career started to pick up, and now she's playing Aaliyah and will play Ice Cube's wife in his upcoming feature biopic, Straight Outta Compton. Here's where else you might recognize Shipp from.

House of Anubis

Nickelodeon viewers will recognize Shipp as T.K. Rush on the joint British, American, and Belgian mystery series. Her role was her first as a regular on a TV series.

"With that show, we were shooting 25 pages a day," she told The Arizona Republic. "A lot of time and energy were put into it. I learned how to memorize really quickly, how to hit my marks. It was like a boot camp. It wasn't just being a regular on a Nickelodeon show."

TV Guest Appearances

Even before hitting House of Anubis, Shipp had many guest roles on hit TV series. She had one-episode stints on ABC Family's Switched at Birth, Nickelodeon's Victorious, and Showtime's Ray Donovan. Shipp also appeared on multiple episodes of the NBC soap Days of Our Lives and MTV's Awkward.

Drumline: A New Beat

Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B isn't Shipp's first starring role in a TV movie. Last month, she played the lead Danielle "Dani" Raymond in VH1's sequel to the hit movie Drumline. Dani is a young drummer from New York who enrolls at the fictional Atlanta A&T University and tries to get along with all the personalities in the college's drum section.

Image: Christos Kalohoridis/Lifetime