Netflix has ordered the single-camera comedy “Black Excellence” from Barris, in which he will also star opposite “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” star and “Claws” executive producer Rashida Jones.
Inspired by Barris’ approach to parenting, relationships, race, and culture, the series is said to pull the curtain back and reboot the “family sitcom.” The series is reported to be similar to HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in tone.
Barris and Jones will executive produce with Hale Rothstein, who has previously collaborated with Barris on his ABC series “Black-ish” and the Freeform spinoff “Grown-ish.” Barris will produce via his Khalabo Ink Society.
Kenya Barris has become the newest big-ticket addition to Netflix’s lineup of television producers.
The “Black-ish” creator has signed a three-year overall deal with the streaming service that will see him produce series exclusively for Netflix. According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the deal, which carries an option for an additional two years, is valued at roughly $100 million — putting Barris in the same ballpark as recent Netflix recruits Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.
Barris’ departure from ABC Studios, where he was under an overall deal, became official last month. But according to insiders, his release from his ABC deal had been secured several months ago, and the basics of his new Netflix agreement had also been in place for some time.
Barris’ relationship with ABC began to show signs of strain in March when Variety reported that the network had indefinitely shelved an episode of “Black-ish” that he wrote and directed, titled “Please, Baby, Please,” which touched on current events, including controversy over athletes kneeling during performances of the national anthem. Barris told Variety at the time, “Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it.”
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Disney-owned ABC’s concerns were related to comments that characters made in the episode about President Donald Trump, not to the football storyline.
A month later, reports surfaced that Barris was being courted by Netflix for an overall deal. But his ability to pursue a Netflix deal was complicated by the renewal of his ABC agreement that he signed last year, and which ran through 2021. Barris had to secure an exit from ABC before moving to Netflix.
With his departure from ABC Studios last month, Barris stepped away from his post as co-showrunner of “Black-ish,” but will continue to serve as executive producer. Barris also has “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish” at Disney cable channel Freeform, where he will continue to be an EP.
“Black-ish” has been a rarity among broadcast comedies in recent years — drawing solid ratings and robust critical praise, particularly for episodes addressing complex social issues. It also, when it premiered in 2014, was the first broadcast comedy in years to feature an African-American family. It has been nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards over its run, and this year received its third Emmy nomination for outstanding comedy series. It received a Peabody Award in 2016, and a Golden Globe Award in 2017 for actress Tracee Ellis Ross.
“Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers,” said Cindy Holland, vice president, original content at Netflix. “Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”
Barris added, “When my agents reached out to me about this little garage start-up called Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to think. But after I talked to Ted and Cindy, I started to believe that maybe this mom-and-pop shop with only 130 million subscribers might just be something… so I decided to take a swing… a leap of faith if you will, and take a chance with the new kids on the block.”
With his new agreement, Barris joins the ranks of television’s highest paid creators. In the last year, Netflix has signed Rhimes and Murphy to nine-figure deals as it continues to grow its original-programming volume in an increasingly robust challenge to the traditional pay-TV business. The streaming service last month revealed an initial programming slate from Rhimes that includes eight new series projects.
ABC is developing a comedy about a Middle Eastern family with superpowers from Larry Wilmore and Bassem Youssef. The untitled series centers on the Sharif family, an ordinary Middle Eastern American family with two superhero parents at a time when it’s illegal to be a superhero, so they are forced to save the world in secret. The show will highlight some of the issues that immigrant families face when it comes to fitting into a society that at many times treats you like the enemy.
Wilmore and Youssef will serve as writers and executive producers on the single camera series. ABC Studios will produce. “To have ABC challenge the narrative and stereotypes that have long stuck to people in my region is something spectacular to say the least,” said Youssef. “To have only terrorist roles available for us one day, then get to play superheroes the next, is ground breaking. I am grateful to work with, Larry Wilmore, one of the most talented writers and producers in the market. SCH is unprecedented, culture-defining, and entertaining for the whole family.”
The sale of the project marks Wilmore’s first solo project under his overall deal with ABC Studios. He also serves as an executive producer on “Insecure” and “Black-ish.” Youssef is a writer and comedian who has made numerous appearances on “The Daily Show” as a commentator and also appeared on Wilmore’s former Comedy Central series, “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.”
“I’m beyond thrilled to have the chance to put a family like this on television,” Wilmore said. “Plus, I’ve always wanted to do a show about superheroes and to work with a real life superhero in Bassem is a double bonus.”
Taraji P. Henson has been tapped to host BET’s 2017 Black Girls Rock Awards honoring “Insecure” creator, writer and star Issa Rae, “Black-ish” star Yara Shahidi and others. The ceremony will take place on Aug. 5 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Rae is set to receive the Star Power Award while actress/activist Shahidi will take home the Young Gifted and Black honor.
Other honorees include singer Roberta Flack (Living Legend Award); financier Suzanne Shank (Shot Caller Award); and community organizers Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson of The Black & Missing Foundation (Community Change Agent Award).
The 2017 Black Girls Rock Awards will air on BET on Aug. 20.
Freeform has greenly the “Black-ish’” college-set spinoff series, starring Yara Shahidi. The spinoff is titled “College-ish” and will center around Shahidi’s character Zoey Johnson, as she heads off to college and quickly discovers that not everything goes her way once she leaves the nest.
The show is set to debut with a 13-episode season in early 2018. “College-ish” is described as a contemporary take on the current issues facing both students and administrators in the world of higher education. Deon Cole will co-star with Shahidi, reprising his “Black-ish” role of Charlie, who moonlights as an adjunct marketing professor.
The rest of the core cast will be new characters and actors, not seen in the flagship series, both in the administration and student body who all reflect the complex and hilarious points of views on college campuses.
The spinoff was developed at ABC, which airs “Black-ish,” and aired as a planted pilot this spring. After ABC passed on the project, its sister network Freeform scooped it up. Insiders say the series was too young for ABC, which made it a perfect fit for the young-skewing cable network.
According to Variety.com, former “The Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore is turning his focus back to writing and producing after his 2016 stint on Comedy Central.
Wilmore recently signed an overall deal with ABC Studios, marking his first major move since his late-night series was cancelled. Under his new multi-year pact, Wilmore will develop his own projects, plus supervise others and work with executives to target talent for the studio.
Wilmore recently helped Issa Rae created“Insecure” for HBO, which was recently renewed for a second season. A comedy veteran, Wilmore also created “The Bernie Mac Show” and “The P.J.’s.” He’s also an executive producer on ABC’s hit sitcom “Black-ish.”
“I’m excited beyond words to be back at ABC and look forward to this creative partnership,” Wilmore said. “Disney took a chance on me as a young writer years ago and so I’m thrilled to return to the Mouse House. I hope my room still looks the same.”
ABC has named Jamila Hunter senior vice president of comedy, Variety has learned.
Hunter’s promotion follows the exit of longtime head of comedy Samie Falvey, who recently departed for AwesomenessTV where she is now head of content.
In her new position, Hunter — previously ABC’s vice president of comedy — will manage the network’s comedy department, heading development and production of all comedy pilots.
“As one of our industry’s most accomplished executives, Jamila has been instrumental in ABC’s comedy resurgence. She brings a unique perspective to this important role, and I’m thrilled to have her leading our efforts,” said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey, to whom Hunter will report.
Hunter commented: “I’m honored to join Channing’s senior leadership team. Over the years, our network has built a strong comedy brand featuring unique, culturally relevant shows. I’m excited by this new opportunity and looking forward to working with my talented colleagues at ABC as we continue this tradition.”
Hunter became vice-president of ABC comedy in 2011. Over the past five years in that position, she has worked on “Black-ish,” “Fresh Off The Boat,” “The Real O’Neals” and Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing.” In late 2015, her role was expanded with multi-platform comedy development added to her purview, thus working with talent who develop and produce original short-form content for ABC’s app, plus collaborating with the net’s digital team on marketing and launching each digital series.
Prior to ABC, Hunter was part of the creative team that launched Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, and before that, was senior vice president of alternative and digital programming NBC.
Kenya Barris, creator of ABC’s “Black-ish” and co-writer of “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” has signed an overall deal at Fox for the development of feature projects.
“We are thrilled to be in business with Kenya,” said Stacey Snider, chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox Film. “He is a creator with an incredibly authentic voice — at a time when original storytellers are more valuable than ever.”
The film pact will be administered through Barris’ new production company, Khalabo Ink Society, aimed at telling compelling stories that pull back the curtain on the parts of our society that typically go unnoticed, and forging conversations that expose our own hypocrisies. “As we expand our comedic franchise we at Khalabo Ink Society are overjoyed to have found a partner in Fox, that shares our same sentiment in storytelling,” Barris said.
Khalabo also has a number of feature projects in the works, including “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Stir Crazy,” “Girls Trip,” “Ruff Ryderz,” and “Shaft.” Erynn Sampson is head of development for Khalabo Ink Society.
Barris currently has an overall deal with ABC Studios where he will continue to executive produce “Black-ish,” in addition to developing new series and projects for network, cable, and streaming, including “Unit Zero,” which he will executive produce along with Toni Collette, who will also star.
When the third season of “Black-ish” arrives, the Johnson family will expand. Fresh from the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” Daveed Diggs will have a major Season 3 arc as Rainbow Johnson’s brother, Johan, Variety can exclusively reveal.
Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Johan, whose mother is a very laid-back, hippie-ish soul, had very different childhoods than Dre, and that’s partly why Johan will be a frequent thorn in Dre’s side. Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) has always feared that his kids will grow up to be overly pampered, and it sounds like Johan is the personification of those fears.
“He’s sort of a hipster, entitled kid who gets on Dre’s nerves,” creator and showrunner Kenya Barris said. “He’s constantly on a search for the best conditioner for his hair. He’s probably gone to Penn or Wharton and could have gotten a great-paying job, but he’s trying to find himself. That attitude more than anything makes Dre want to strangle him.”
For Diggs, who won a Tony for playing Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in “Hamilton,” there’s even a tiny link to French culture. Johan “has been to Paris twice and he’s like, ‘You Americans!’” Barris said. Johan, as it happens, doesn’t like his butter to be too cold and complains about Americans’ mania for refrigeration. “He’s like, ‘This butter’s making my croissant crumble,’” according to Barris. “Dre is constantly snatching food from him.”
The upside for Johan, who will have a “substantial” recurring arc in the third season, is that the Johnson kids think he’s extremely cool — except for Diane (Marsai Martin). “She’s not buying that sh*t,” Barris said.