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.
According to Variety.com, outgoing ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey is joining Netflix as Vice President of Original Content for the streaming service. Dungey will report to Cindy Holland, also Vice President of Original Content, and will officially start working there in February.
“We’re delighted to be adding Channing’s expertise, leadership and deep experience to Netflix, and I look forward to partnering with her as we continue to grow and evolve our global network,” said Holland. “I have been a fan of her character and approach from our early days as executives.”
Dungey is to partner with Holland in setting strategic direction as well as in overseeing a large portion of Netflix’s slate, including some of the company’s overall deals with former ABC-based producers Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris, “Orange Is The New Black” and “Glow” producer Jenji Kohan, “Unreal” and “Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce” producer Marti Noxon, producer Steven DeKnight, and Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, among others.
“Channing is a creative force whose taste and talent have earned her the admiration of her peers across the industry,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix. “She’s a risk taker and ground-breaker and talent love working with her. I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to Netflix.”
Prior to presiding over ABC, Dungey lead the network’s drama development team. She helped develop several popular shows in that role, including huge hits “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” Other shows she shepherded during that time include “Quantico,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “American Crime,” and “Once Upon a Time.”
“I’m drawn to the forward-thinking, risk-taking and creative culture at Netflix, and the deeply talented people there, especially Ted and Cindy, with whom I’m excited to partner on setting the strategy for original content,” said Dungey. “Given that ABC, the place I’ve called home for nearly 15 years, represents the gold standard of traditional broadcast, it feels like the perfect next step for me to join Netflix, the unparalleled leader in streaming. I’m invigorated by the challenges ahead and the opportunity to forge new relationships, and excited for the very welcome reunion with incredible talent.”
Dungey also famously canceled ABC’s revival of “Roseanne” after series star and creator Roseanne Barr tweeted that former Obama administration aide Valerie Jarrett, who is black, looked like a cross between the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes [sic].”
Dungey previously partnered with Pamela Post at Dexterity Pictures, a production partnership focused on making both studio and independent films, as well as developing television series. She also served as president of Material, Jorge Saralegui‘s film production company based at Warner Bros. Prior to that, she worked for five years as a Warner Bros. production executive.
Dungey, a magna cum laude graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, has been a visiting professor there and serves on the school’s executive board. She is also a founding and current board member of Step Up, a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to helping girls living in under-resourced communities to fulfill their educational potential.
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.
The nominees for the 2017 Primetime Emmys were announced this morning, and among them are nods in the Best Comedy Series category for writer/creator/star Donald Glover‘s freshman FX half-hour “Atlanta” as well as writer/creator Kenya Barris‘ veteran ABC show “Black-ish,” which also garnered nods in the Lead Comedy Actor and Actress categories for its stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. Glover also picked up a nod for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Emmy winner Viola Davis was recognized again for her role as Annalise Keating in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” and Sterling K. Brown came through in the Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for his work on the popular NBC hit “This is Us.” Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton were acknowledged for their Supporting Roles in “Westworld,” as was Samira Wiley for her work in the original Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Up against Wiley in the same category is her former “Orange Is the New Black” castmate Uzo Aduba.
Additionally, Leslie Jones grabbed a nomination in the Supporting Role in Comedy category for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” and RuPaul Charles got some love in the Host for a Reality/Reality-Competition Program category for his work on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Behind the scenes, Donald Glover earned his third Emmy nomination for “Atlanta” in the directing category, and his fourth, along with his brother Stephen Glover, for Writing for a Comedy Series. Ava DuVernay & Spencer Averick were nominated in the Writing for a Nonfiction Program category for their outstanding work on the Netflix documentary “13th.” The full list of nominees follows below:
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“This Is Us” (NBC)
Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)
Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)
Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
Zach Galifianakis (“Baskets”)
Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)
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.
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.
The Feb. 24 episode of ABC’s “Black-ish” will take on police brutality. The episode, titled “Hope,” will revolve around a fictional incident of police brutality that Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anthony Anderson) discuss with family members, including the couple’s four children. Much of the episode will focus on various characters’ reactions as they watch a news broadcast about the case, which involves an African-American teenager’s encounter with police.
As was the case when the family talked about the issue of guns in the home, members of the Johnson clan do not necessarily see eye-to-eye about what the kids should know and when they should know it. Rainbow would like to shield the kids, especially the younger ones, from life’s harsher realities as long as she can, while Andre feels that they need to know about the challenges of the world they’re living in as soon as is practical. Pops (Laurence Fishburne) and Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) tend to side with Dre, but the conversations are wide-ranging and impassioned on all sides. “Unfortunately the things that we are dealing with in this episode are not new, especially to the black and brown community. It’s something that’s been going on for quite some time,” Anderson told Variety.
Creator and executive producer Kenya Barris said the desire to take on the issue came from his own attempts to talk to his kids about various incidents of police brutality that made the news. “We’re not ‘Law & Order’ — we’re not trying to rip things from the headlines,” Barris said.
Bow and Dre talking to their kids about what they see on the news “is what this family would naturally be going through.”“What we’re really taking on is the notion of, how do you talk to your kids about what they’re seeing?’” Barris added. His own kids “were seeing people in the streets mad. And they were like, ‘What’s going on? Why are these people so angry?’ It was this big division at my house, because I had my feelings that I wanted to spout out. But my wife had her feelings and the biggest thing is, how do you talk about your frustrations and your angers, but at the same time not take away your kids’ hope and ability to still want to grow and thrive within a world that they have to live in?”
Screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver are re-teaming with Malcolm D. Lee for the “Untitled Girls’ Trip Project” at Universal. This project marks the second time the trio have worked together after Barbershop3, which is currently in production.Barris is the creator of the ABC comedy series Black-ish and is also writing a feature adaptation of the 1970s TV show Good Times. Will Packer will be producing “Girls’ Trip” through his Will Packer Productions banner.
Packer’s next two titles at Universal are Straight Outta Compton as Executive Producer, bowing August 14, and Ride Along 2, which opens on January 15 in 2016. Lee’s highest-grossing film stateside was The Best Man Holiday. which made $71 million. Barbershop 3 will be released on February 19 next year.