If news of producer Kenya Barris attempting to exit a deal with ABC Studios is true, it could be indicative of how creative control and distribution are the next hurdles for black creatives to overcome. Barris has been at ABC since 2015, but his deal has only had two successes; Black-ish and Grown-ish, the latter of which has been renewed for a second season. Black-ish has yet to be approved for a new season but insiders believe it is an eventuality.
Internal creative struggle and tumult between the two parties have been apparent to all who have been paying attention. Grown-ish, was initially supposed to air on ABC instead of Freeform. Though successful, a demotion by any other name is still a demotion.
Additionally, the network passed on at least two Burress produced pilots, Libby & Malcolm, a political comedy that wouldve starred which was set to star Courtney B. Vance, Felicity Huffman, Jahi Winston and Sayeed Shahidi being primary among them.
Bright Futures, starring Lilly Singh and Shameik Moore, got a pilot order from NBC, not ABC. The Girls Trip co-writer is also writing the new Shaft movie and has his name attached a Coming to America remake.
Also, the sociopolitical episode of Black-ish that discussed kneeling athletes was pulled recently. That couldnt have sat well with Burress. A synopsis;
“Anthony Andersons 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 Dres 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.”
Burress has three years left on a production deal that was re-signed last year. His departure would mean ABC fumbled their top dramatic (Shonda Rhimes) and comedic producers from last year. Rhimes is over at Netflix and theres speculation that hell follow her. Netflix, for the uninformed, is all about letting creative minds do as they please. After feeling ABCs cold, clammy hands nudge some of his creative babies to the side, you best believe hes looking for greater creative autonomy on his next deal.