'Black-Ish' Creator Kenya Barris Exits ABC Studios Deal, Eyes Nine-Figure Netflix Pact

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July 28th 2018

ABC has officially lost its top comedy and drama producers.

black-ish creator Kenya Barris is officially getting out of his ABC Studios deal and is eyeing to join Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy at Netflix for a nine-figure deal, according to THR. The rumors first came up in April.

Three years would have remained on the deal he re-signed in 2017 with the studio of parent network, ABC.

The exit comes after Barris has been reportedly frustrated for sometime at the studio. After first signing the deal in 2015, with several series either in development, ordered to pilot -- or in one case, ordered straight-to-series -- none have seen the light of day besides, grown-ish, which was sent to ABC's younger-skewing sister station, Freeform. He also has another Freeform sitcom coming called Besties

Many high-profile projects fell through, including a political family comedy Libby & Malcolm, starring Courtney B. Vance and Felicity Huffman, a Toni Collete-toplined CIA drama which was a passion project for Barris and an Alec Baldwin comedy.

Barris' August exit from the ABC Studios deal will not impact black-ish, grown-ish or the upcoming Besties. They will remain on the networks for their runs and Barris will remain an EP on them.

“I’m very grateful to Patrick Moran and his team at ABC Studios, who have supported me every step of the way as I created the worlds of black-ish, grown-ish, and nowBesties. It has been an incredible ride including a Peabody and Golden Globe win, Emmy nominations, and many other accolades. But most importantly, they’ve allowed me to realize my dream of creating my own shows and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done together. No matter what, the studio has never wavered in their support of my creative vision. Leaving is bittersweet, but between my series on the air and projects currently in development, I know I’ll continue to work with ABC Studios for a long time," Barris said in a statement to several trade publications.

The most infamous conflict was when ABC and Barris clashed on a politically-themed episode of black-ish, which ABC pulled from its schedule. The episode would have featured "Anthony Anderson’s patriarch Dre caring for his infant son on the night of an intense thunderstorm that keeps the whole household awake. Dre attempts to read the baby a bedtime story, but abandons that plan when the baby continues to cry. He instead improvises a bedtime story that, over the course of the episode, conveys many of Dre’s concerns about the current state of the country. The episode covers multiple political and social issues. In one scene, Dre and oldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) argue over the rights of athletes to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at football games." While ABC said it was pulled due to "creative differences" in a mutual decision THR's sources said otherwise.

The black-ish creator has busy as of late writing for film. He co-wrote Girls Trip, wrote new Shaft film (ironically already set up at Netflix in a groundbreaking deal with New Line) and is attached to Coming to America and Uptown Saturday Night remakes. He also had an NBC pilot, Bright Futures, starring Lilly Singh and Shameik Moore but the network passed.

black-ish, grown-ish will return for the 2018-19 season, and Besties could come to television as early as 2019.

by Trey Mangum on July 28th 2018
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