Netflix, the home of the binge-watch, could be adding Kenya Barris to its all-star roster of creators. The producer is reportedly looking to get out of his lucrative ABC contract—on which he still has three years—to join the streaming behemoth, which recently added mega-successful showrunner Shonda Rhimes to its lineup.
In an exclusive to the Hollywood Reporter, multiple sources said that Barris is actively trying to leave his contract with ABC, where he’s been since 2015. Barris brought the popular, critically acclaimed comedy Black-ish to the network, a show that has garnered multiple awards, including a Golden Globe for actress Tracee Ellis Ross and a Peabody. ABC also picked up a spinoff, Grown-ish, starring Yara Shahidi, which runs on ABC’s sister cable channel Freeform.
But things haven’t been smooth sailing between Barris and ABC as of late. Last month, news leaked of ABC’s pulling a politically themed Black-ish episode after the network and Barris butted heads over the creative direction of the episode. According to THR, the show was going to center on Anthony Anderson (who plays the show’s patriarch, Dre) “relaying his concerns about the current [state] of the country” to his youngest son. According to Essence, the episode also featured a debate between Dre and his eldest son, Junior, about NFL players choosing to kneel for the national anthem.
At the time, the two parties said the decision to scrap the episode was mutual. “Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it,” said Barris. Sources now tell THR that wasn’t the case.
Black-ish has covered hot political and social issues before—with episodes addressing police brutality, the n-word, Donald Trump’s election and Juneteenth.
Some have also speculated that the recent Roseanne reboot—specifically a jab the conservative-courting comedy made at Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat—has something to do with Barris’ considering an early exit from the network.
From Vanity Fair:
The quip [on Roseanne] comes after Dan and Roseanne fell asleep on the couch, then awaken to realize they’ve slumbered through an evening of ABC programming. Dan remarks, “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families”—a clear nod toward Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat.
Roseanne’s reply? “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”
Regardless of his reasons for a possible departure, a Barris exit would be a huge loss for ABC and a major win for Netflix, which is looking to produce more original programming to win viewers away from other streaming services (Barris is already at work with Netflix on a Shaft reboot and a Coming to America sequel).
A Netflix move could also spell a lot more green in Barris’ future: Both Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy (creator of Glee and American Crime Story) reportedly penned nine-figure deals with the company.