Kenya Barris could be on his way out at ABC Studios, where he currently has an overall production deal.
Sources have told The Hollywood Reporter, who broke the news, that Barris is “actively trying to get out of his overall deal with ABC Studios,” where he has been since 2015.
Three years remain on the deal he re-signed in 2017. Not only is he plotting to leave, but Netflix, which snagged Shonda Rhimes from ABC and snatched Ryan Murphy from Fox, is courting Barris.
This comes as ABC and Barris clashed on a politically-themed episode of the series, which ABC pulled from it 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 say otherwise.
Despite having a deal since 2015, only one series other than black-ish has succeeded so far through his ABC deal, grown-ish. The black-ish spinoff, which recently got renewed for a bigger second season, was developed for ABC before being sent to ABC’s younger-skewing sister station, Freeform.
It has passed on several Barris pilots, including the political family comedy, Libby & Malcolm, which was set to star Courtney B. Vance, Felicity Huffman, Jahi Winston and Sayeed Shahidi.
black-ish hasn’t been officially renewed for a new season at ABC, but is expected to be a sure bet for renewal.
Barris’ Bright Futures, starring Lilly Singh and Shameik Moore, got a late pilot order at NBC. He’s also been busy writing for film. He co-wrote Girls Trip, is writing on the new Shaft film which recently wrapped and is attached to a Coming to America remake.
As THR points out, if Barris leaves, ABC will have lost its top drama (Rhimes) and comedy (Barris) producers.