Tag: Shonda Rhimes

Former ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey Joins Netflix as VP of Original Content

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Credit: Photo by Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock

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. 

Denzel Washington Headlines Event in Pittsburgh Marking Renovation of August Wilson Home

Denzel Washington greets August Wilson’s daughter, Sakina Ansari-Wilson, at the groundblessing for August Wilson House. (photo by Nate Smallwood via Tribune-Review)

by Wes Venteicher via triblive.com

Actor Denzel Washington headlined a rainy ceremony Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to mark the start of renovations at playwright August Wilson’s childhood home.

Washington led a $5 million fundraising effort to restore what is now called the August Wilson House. Renovations are expected to be completed in 2020, when the house is set to become a center for art and culture in the neighborhood.

“It is a privilege and an honor and a responsibility … and a joy to play a small part in keeping him alive,” Washington told an audience that huddled under umbrellas in the yard of the house at 1727 Bedford Ave.

Paul Ellis, Wilson’s nephew, led an effort to restore the nearly 200-year-old building to its 1950s-era look, matching how it appeared when Wilson lived there with his mother and five siblings. Wilson, who died in 2005, last visited the house in 1999.

Denzel Washington speaks at ground blessing of August Wilson House in Pittsburgh’s Historic Hill District (photo by Nate Smallwood via Tribune-Review)

When renovations are complete, the building — which is now on the National Register of Historic Places — will house displays and artifacts from Wilson’s life and plays. Wilson said he wanted the building to be “useful,” not only a museum, Ellis said. It will incorporate artist studios and will continue to host plays in its yard.

Duquesne University has launched a program to award fellowships to emerging writers who will live and study at Duquesne and spend time working at the House, Duquesne President Ken Gormley said.

Washington, who starred in a 2016 film production of Wilson’s play “Fences,” called Wilson one of the world’s great playwrights and talked about a familiar feeling in visiting the Hill District house. “I love August Wilson,” Washington said. “He touches my soul, our souls, in a way that no one else I know has. This is just like coming home.”

He identified some of the project’s big-name donors, noting Oprah Winfrey and actor Tyler Perry each gave $1 million and writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, director Spike Lee and actor Samuel L. Jackson all contributed.

Washington is producing nine more of Wilson’s plays — the rest of the 10 plays in the playwright’s Century Cycle.

Duquesne University has already selected its first fellow, former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey. Trethewey read her poem “Pilgrimage” at the ceremony, which included short performances of Wilson’s work by student Jamaica Johnson and Pittsburgh actor Wali Jamal.

Read more: https://triblive.com/local/allegheny/14120687-74/denzel-washington-headlines-event-marking-renovation-of-august-wilson-home

Science Fiction Author N.K. Jemisin Makes History at the Hugo Awards with 3rd win in a row for Best Novel

N.K. Jemisin set a record winning a third Hugo in a row for best novel. (N.K. Jemisin)

by Michael Schaub via latimes.com

The winners of the Hugo Awards, considered some of the most prestigious science fiction and fantasy literary prizes, were announced on Sunday, with science fiction author N.K. Jemisin making history as the first writer ever to win the best novel award three years in a row.

Jemisin won the prize for “The Stone Sky,” the third book in her “Broken Earth” trilogy. The previous two books in the series, “The Fifth Season” and “The Obelisk Gate,” both won the best novel award as well.

During her acceptance speech at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA, Jemisin said, “I get a lot of questions about where the themes of the Broken Earth trilogy come from. I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m drawing on the human history of structural oppression, as well as my feelings about this moment in American history.”

But she also sounded a note of optimism.

“I want you to remember that 2018 is also a good year. This is a year in which records have been set,” Jemisin said. “A year in which even the most privilege-blindered of us has been forced to acknowledge that the world is broken and needs fixing — and that’s a good thing! Acknowledging the problem is the first step toward fixing it. I look to science fiction and fantasy as the aspirational drive of the Zeitgeist: We creators are the engineers of possibility. And as this genre finally, however grudgingly, acknowledges that the dreams of the marginalized matter and that all of us have a future, so will go the world.”

Jemisin’s fans took to Twitter to celebrate her historic hat trick. Among them was her cousin, the television host and comedian W. Kamau Bell, who noted that Jemisin’s books have yet to be adapted into film:

Television producer Shonda Rhimes responded to Bell with a link to a year-old Deadline story about “The Fifth Season” being adapted into a TNT television program, and Jemisin replied.

Nnedi Okorafor took home a non-Hugo award for best young adult book for her novel “Akata Warrior.”

A full list of this year’s winners is available at the Hugo Awards website.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/books/la-et-jc-nk-jemisin-hugo-awards-20180821-story.html

“Black-ish” and “Grown-ish” Producer Kenya Barris Signs $100 Million Netflix Deal

Kenya Barris (photo via deadline.com)

by Daniel Holloway via Variety.com

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.

Read more: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/kenya-barris-100-million-netflix-deal-1202907726/

Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Overall Production Deal with Netflix

by Daniel Holloway via Variety.com

Netflix has secured a deal with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce series and movies for the streaming service. The former first couple will, according to an announcement Monday from the company, potentially work on scripted and unscripted series as well as docu-series, documentary films, and features under the multi-year deal.

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” said Barack Obama. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” said Michelle Obama. “Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”

Signing the Obamas is the latest, and by far the biggest, in a string of moves by Netflix to lock up the entertainment industry’s highest-profile producers in exclusive production and development pacts. Last year, Netflix poached “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes from ABC Studios with a deal valued at more than $100 million. “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy jumped from his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television earlier this year to also join Netflix. Murphy’s deal was reported at the time to be worth as much as $300 million. However, sources tell Variety that tally includes money that Murphy is expected to make from his current and former Fox series over the life of his Netflix contract, and that the true value of the deal is in line with that of Rhimes’.

It is unknown how much the Obamas’ Netflix agreement is worth. In March, Penguin Random House signed the couple to a joint book deal that pays them a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs.

“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”

Among President Obama’s most visible public appearances since leaving office was on David Letterman’s new Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” Obama was the first guest in the former “Late Show” host’s new long-form interview program.

Word of a possible pact between the former U.S. president and first lady surfaced in March, when the New York Times first reported that the couple was in talks with the streaming service on a deal to produce several high-profile projects.

Sarandos has a close relationship with the Obamas. His wife, Nicole Avant, served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in President Obama’s first term in office.

Source: http://variety.com/2018/digital/news/barack-michelle-obama-netflix-deal-1202817723/

“Grey’s Anatomy” Creator Shonda Rhimes Offers “MasterClass” on Writing for Television

Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes (photo via black enterprise.com)

article by Carolyn M. Brown via blackenterprise.com

Shonda Rhimes is best known as the creator, head writer, and executive producer of three hit ABC television series—Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder—under her ShondaLand production company banner.

The queen of Thursday night and creative force behind some of television’s most popular shows will offer a writing for television course on the MasterClass online platform. For the first time, Rhimes will give students an intimate, instructional look into how to write a script, pitch a pilot, and run a writer’s room. The class will include over five hours of lessons, along with exclusive access to the Grey’s Anatomy story bible, scripts of Scandal, and much more.  Pre-enrollment is now available at the MasterClass website.  You can also view the MasterClass’ official trailer.

Rhimes on Being an “F.O.D.”

Rhimes made history as the first African American woman to create and executively produce a top-10 network series, with the hit primetime show Grey’s Anatomy. The TV powerhouse also is one of ABC’s top-earning executive producers.

In the past, Rimes has mentioned that she has had to work four times as hard as her peers, while also addressing the pressure of being an African American, female, showrunner—or what she calls an “F.O.D.”: First Only Different. In her book, The Year of Yes, Rhimes writes, “When you are an F.O.D., you are saddled with that burden of extra responsibility, whether you want it or not.” She felt the pressure when she dodged reporters’ questions about diversity or race. “You can’t be raised black in America and not know,” she writes. “This wasn’t just my shot. It was ours.”

To read more, go to: Shonda Rhimes Joins MasterClass to Teach Writing for Television

ABC Renews ‘The Catch’ and Orders New Shondaland Series “Still Star-Crossed”

Still Star-Crossed
“Still Star-Crossed” (PHOTO COURTESY OF ABC)

article by Elizabeth Wagmeister via Variety.com

ABC is staying in business with Shonda Rhimes.  The mega-producer has landed yet another series at the network, with “Still Star-Crossed” being handed a series order for the 2016-2017 season.  Plus, Shondaland’s newest show, “The Catch,” has been renewed for Season 2.

“Still Star-Crossed” is a departure for Shondaland, as it marks the first period drama from a company that’s known for “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How To Get Away with Murder.”

Based on Melinda Taub’s book of the same name, “Still Star-Crossed” picks up where the famous story of Romeo and Juliet ends, charting the treachery, palace intrigue and ill-fated romances of the Montagues and Capulets in the wake of the young lovers’ tragic fate.

The cast includes Wade Briggs as Benvolio Montague, Anthony Head as Lord Silvestro Capulet, Zuleikha Robinson as Lady Guiliana Capulet, Lashana Lynch as Rosaline, Ebonee Noel as Livia, Sterling Sulieman as Prince Escalus, Medalion Rahimi as Princess Isabella, Grant Bowler as Damiano Montague, Susan Wooldrigde as Nurse, Torrance Coombs as Paris and Dan Hildebrand as Friar Lawrence.

“Scandal” and “Grey’s” alum Heather Mitchell is writer and executive producer. Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Michael Goldstein and pilot director Michael Offer are also executive producing the ABC Studios project.

To read more, go to: http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/the-catch-renewed-season-2-abc-shondaland-1201773247/

Denzel Washington Event Raises $17,000,000 for Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

504434762-in-this-handout-photo-provided-by-nbcuniversal-denzel
Denzel and Pauletta Washington with their children during a presentation at the Golden Globe Awards Jan. 10, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (PAUL DRINKWATER/NBCUNIVERSAL VIA GETTY IMAGES)

article by Yesha Callahan via theroot.com

When you have as much star power and influence as Denzel Washington and Pauletta Washington, and it’s put to good use, amazing things happen. While Barack Obama was giving his final White House Correspondents’ dinner speech Saturday night, the Washingtons were throwing a lavish party with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, all in support of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opens later this year.

The fundraiser was an effort to secure the final monies needed for the museum, and needless to say, when the Washingtons put out a call, their friends have no problem donating.  The museum’s total cost amounts to $540 million, and so far, the government has contributed $270 million with the remainder coming in from events like the Washingtons’.

According to Variety, Saturday night’s soiree raised $17 million and included a pledge of $10 million from Shonda Rhimes.

“There is such a historical significance to this project,’’ said Denzel Washington. “It means so much for our community, our country and to future generations.’’

Magic Johnson closed the event with words that I’m sure resonated with everyone in attendance.  “We have to get everyone involved in this, making this a success,’’ said Johnson.

ABC Renews ‘Scandal,’ ‘How to Get Away With Murder’, ‘Black-ish’ and More for 2016/2017 Season

Scandal
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in “Scandal” (photo via blogs.indiewire.com)

article by Tambay A. Obenson via Shadow And Act

New ABC president Channing Dungey, who replaces exiting Paul Lee (making her the first African American to not only head ABC, but a major TV network) is already making her presence felt a mere 2 weeks into the job, announcing today the early renewals of a handful of ABC series.

Of note, “Scandal” will return for a 6th season (recall the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, said that she knows exactly how and when it will end, adding that it would be a 6 or 7 season series, at most. So can we assume that “Scandal” is near its end, now that it’s been renewed for a 6th season?); Also “How to Get Away With Murder” has been renewed for a 3rd season; and “Black-ish” will get a 3rd season.

Also renewed are: “Agents of SHIELD,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Modern Family,” “Quantico,” “The Goldbergs,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Shark Tank,” and “The Bachelor.”

No announcement on the fate of John Ridley‘s critically-acclaimed anthology series “American Crime,” unfortunately. Although it’s still early, so I wouldn’t count it out yet.

Ridley is working on another series for the network. In December, ABC gave an early pilot order to a new crime drama from Ridley titled “Presence,” with the 2016/2017 season eyed for a premiere – assuming it goes to series eventually.

To read more, go to: http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/abc-renews-scandal-how-to-get-away-with-murder-black-ish-and-more-for-2016-2017-season-20160303

Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes Join Essence to Celebrate Black Women in Hollywood, Honor Debbie Allen

Honoree Debbie Allen and family (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

article by Sandy Cohen, AP via blackamericaweb.com

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Oscar host Chris Rock, producer Reginald Hudlin and film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs took an afternoon off from Academy Awards preparations to celebrate black women in Hollywood.

Rock, Hudlin and Boone Isaacs were among the guests at Essence magazine’s ninth annual awards luncheon Thursday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Rock and Boone Isaacs didn’t speak publicly; Hudlin took the stage to present an award to legendary entertainer Debbie Allen.

The annual Essence event celebrates the achievements of black women in entertainment. Actress Tracee Ellis Ross, entertainment attorney Nina Shaw and filmmaker Thais Francis were also recognized.

Francis thanked the magazine “for creating a platform of visibility.”

“A lot of us in this audience know the importance of visibility, especially during a time, in a society, in a world, in an industry that’s telling us that we’re invisible,” she said.

Shonda Rhimes, who introduced Allen as the new producing director of “Grey’s Anatomy,” called the writer-director-choreographer-performer “a force of nature.”

Producer/writer Shonda Rhimes attends the Essence 9th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
Shonda Rhimes (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

“Debbie blows through an environment and changes the landscape forever,” Rhimes said.

As Allen accepted the Legend Award, she said she felt like she was in church, preaching to her sisters.

“The only plate I’m going to pass is the plate of purpose,” she said, urging the women in the audience to make real connections with each other — not just to meet up for drinks, but to work on ways of changing the world.

Shaw gave similar advice as she accepted the Power Award. The attorney for such entertainers as Laurence Fishburne, Lupita Nyong’o and Ava DuVernay was introduced by Nick Cannon and Channing Dungey, who became the first African-American to head a broadcast network when she was named president of ABC Entertainment last week.

“If you are a woman who wants to be empowered, then empower other women,” Shaw said.

“Black-ish” star Ross, accompanied by her father and older sister, Rhonda, accepted the Fierce and Fearless award. Ross said she had been sick for the past week and worried she wouldn’t be able to attend the luncheon.

“I got dressed in the car,” she said. “I’m unclear if what I’m wearing is see-through. If it is, I’m sorry.”  She said the recognition from Essence “is truly one of the proudest moments I’ve experienced.”

Oprah Winfrey opened the program, which will air Saturday on OWN.

To read more, go to: http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/02/26/oprah-winfrey-shonda-rhimes-join-essence-to-celebrate-black-women-in-hollywood-honor-debbie-allen/