Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s production company, JuVee Productions, has announced they’re developing the novel Shark Dialogues into a drama for ABC called Ohana, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, who was formerly a staff writer and foreign correspondent for Time, will write the script.
Shark Dialogues, written by Kiana Davenport, follows, as The Hollywood Reporter writes, “four hapa women who reunite when their grandmother, a mystic known as a kahuna, dies mysteriously and leaves them the family plantation.” As the term “hapa” suggests, the women will have biracial backgrounds, including Japanese, Filipino, black and white heritage.
“Ohana is Hawaiian for ‘family,’ and that is a big part of who we are and what we want JuVee to support: embracing cultures and points of view from all over the world and showing that we all can relate and connect to each other,” said Davis and Tennon in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
JuVee’s head of television production and development Andrew Wang reiterated this statement when speaking with The Hollywood Reporter. “At JuVee, we’re passionate about compelling stories with diverse perspectives, told by diverse voices like Kiana and Lisa, so this is a perfect fit,” he told the outlet.
Cullen wrote on Twitter how Davis and Tennon are part of the charge for more inclusion in Hollywood.
“This is important. @ViolaDavis walks the walk. She and her husband Julius Tennon and head of TV Andrew Wang run a [production company] dedicated to telling diverse stories by diverse storytellers,” she wrote. “Imagine becoming famous and using your powers to create change.”
Seeing how the show will focus on Asian American and indigenous identities, you’d be wise to wonder how much the success of Crazy Rich Asians played into ABC’s decision to give Ohana a go. Just in the past few days since Crazy Rich Asians topped the box office, more focus has been given toward Asian American stories in the media, including the announcement of Warner Bros. greenlighting a Crazy Rich Asians sequel. Seeing how Cullen said to The Hollywood Reporter that part of her pitch included a reference to Crazy Rich Asians, it’s clear the film’s impact is just beginning to make its mark on the industry.
JuVee Productions is steadily making a name for itself as one of the many homes for diverse entertainment. One of JuVee’s prior projects includes ABC’s documentary series The Last Defense focusing on the case of Julius Jones, a black college student who was put on death row in 2002 for murdering a white man even though he claims his innocence. The series led to Jones’ case getting re-examined. Other projects from JuVee Productions are American Koko, an ABC comedy web series starring Diarra Kilpatrick as the owner of an agency that tackles racial issues; limited docuseries Two Sides, which looks at the intersections of black life and law enforcement; and Eva and Lila, a thriller starring Davis and Jennifer Lopez as wronged mothers looking for justice.