Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil (photo via eurweb.com)
DC Comics drama “Black Lightning,” from executive producers Mara Brock Akil and husband/producing partner, Salim Akil (“Girlfriends,” “The Game,” “Being Mary Jane”) has moved from Fox to The CW with a formal pilot order, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Greg Berlanti, who produces several other DC properties for the CW (“Supergirl”, “The Flash”, “Arrow”) is also executive producing the project.
“Black Lightning” was one of DC Comics’ first major African-American superheroes when it debuted in 1977 from creators Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden. Should the drama move to series, it would be one of the first broadcast shows to feature an African-American superhero as its lead, joining Netflix drama “Luke Cage,” which hails from Marvel Comics.
The hourlong drama will center on Jefferson Pierce, who hung up his suit and his secret identity years ago. However, with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend Black Lightning.
“Black Lightning” marks the first pilot pickup to come from the Akils’ overall deal with Warner Bros. Television. It was originally set up at Fox in September following a multiple-network bidding war.
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.
Sons of Anarchy writer/producer Charles Murray has signed an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV, whose cable division Fox 21 TV Studios produced the gritty FX drama series. Under the pact, he will serve as executive producer and showrunner onStar, 20th TV’s upcoming drama created by Lee Daniels and Tom Donaghy, which was recently picked up to series by Fox for next season. Additionally, Murray will be developing his own projects for the studio.
Murray is coming off stints as executive producer on the first season of Netflix’s next Marvel series, Luke Cage and as one of the writers on A+E Networks’ upcoming Roots remake. He served as a writer/co-executive producer on the final two seasons of Sons of Anarchy, and also worked on CBS’ Criminal Minds, ABC’s Castle,NBC’s Third Watch as well as the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Move over, Barbie and Ken — Cookie and Lucious Lyon need some space on toy store shelves. Fans of Fox’s hit Empire will soon be able to purchase a line of collector dolls inspired by Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard’s beloved characters, doll maker Tonner-One World announced Thursday.
Although images of the actual dolls are not yet available, the announcement was accompanied by sketches capturing Cookie and Lucious’ signature looks. Clad in a leopard mini-dress and oversized fur coat, Cookie is seen putting one heel in front of the other, no doubt ready to fling one of them across the room should she feel the need. Meanwhile, Lucious exudes cool confidence in a vibrant purple suit paired with a light turtleneck. Continue reading →
Gina Prince-Bythewood will direct and Gugu Mbatha-Raw will star in An Untamed State, an adaptation of Roxane Gay‘s debut novel that the director will co-write with the author for Fox Searchlight. Michael De Luca will produce through his Michael De Luca Productions banner with Prince-Bythewood.
The novel tells the powerful, unflinching story of a Haitian-American woman kidnapped for ransom in front of her husband and child. The novel explores the privilege that made her a target and the strength she must draw on to survive and reclaim her life. Prince-Bythewood is best known for directing Love and Basketball, Beyond the Lights, and The Secret Life of Bees, and with husband, Reggie Rock Bythewood, she is executive producing the 10-hour event series Shots Fired for Fox, Imagine Television and Undisputed Cinema. Mbatha-Raw most recently starred in Concussion and Belle, and she teamed with Prince-Bythewood on Beyond the Lights.
Fox’s resurrected “Prison Break” will see the return of three more original members.
Rockmond Dunbar, Amaury Nolasco and Robert Knepper are coming back for the new limited run, the network announced. All three will reprise their original roles as Benjamin Miles “C-Note” Franklin (Dunbar), Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell (Knepper) and Fernando Sucre (Nolsco). Additional castmembers are expected to return as well.
They join Wentworth Miller (Michael), Dominic Purcell (Lincoln) and Sarah Wayne Callies (Sara) in the new episodes, which pick up after Michael’s apparent death.
Sara has moved on with her life, raising her and Michael’s child with her new husband (previously announced guest-star Mark Feuerstein). When clues surface suggesting that Michael may be alive, Sara teams with Lincoln to engineer the series’ biggest escape ever, as three of Fox River State Penitentiary’s most notorious escapees — T-Bag, C-Note and Sucre — are pulled back into the action.
CHICAGO — When Jussie Smollett and Jurnee Smollett-Bell were growing up, bouncing with their parents and four siblings between New York and Los Angeles, as the kids pursued careers in modeling, acting and music, their downtime was just another chance for performance and togetherness.
“Creating was something that we just were expected to do,” Mr. Smollett said, in a joint interview with his sister here, where he tapes the Fox series “Empire.” Seated next to him in a downtown restaurant, she was nodding in agreement. “And I don’t remember a time not wanting to do that.”
Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in v>“Underground.” (Credit: Sony Pictures Television)
The members of the Smollett clan have made good on their childhood promise. Mr. Smollett, 32, is a singer and a breakout star of the hit drama “Empire,” in which he plays Jamal, the most talented member of the Lyon hip-hop dynasty.
Ms. Smollett-Bell, 29, who made her mark as an actress by the age of 10, with the 1997 film “Eve’s Bayou,” is one of the leads in “Underground,” a new WGN America show about a group of slaves who try to escape from their Georgia plantation; her brother guest-stars.
Though it’s their first project together in 20 years, it’s clear that the more creative freedom they have, the more their tastes will converge.
The Smolletts have also been outspoken politically and, since their school years, devoted to causes like H.I.V./AIDS prevention and ending apartheid. They were raised in the orbit of the Black Panthers and, lately, have lent their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement. Their trajectory, from child stars to successful adults, is born of their family and its history of activism.
“Their sense of justice is very strong, and it permeates everything that they do,” said Alfre Woodard, who has known Jussie and Jurnee since they were children; they worked with her at the nonprofit Artists for a New South Africa. “They’re like a model sibling unit. They look out for each other, all the time. And they all reach across and say, ‘O.K., I got my foot in this door; here, grab my hand, we’re going in together.’”
Raised on a diet of classic films (they’ll gladly quote the 1945 version of “Mildred Pierce”), Jussie and Jurnee still count their mother, Janet Smollett, as their only acting coach. An African-American from New Orleans, Ms. Smollett met their father, Joel Smollett Sr., a Russian-Polish Jew, in the Bay Area, where they campaigned for civil rights. “My mom was in the movement with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, and one of her first mentors was Julian Bond,” Mr. Smollett said of the Black Panther founders and the civil rights leader. “To this day, Angela Davis is one of her dearest friends. We’ve spent Mother’s Day with Angela.”