Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
In May, the married couple signed a long-term overall deal with BET Networks to develop scripted projects through their Akil Productions shingle. The pact, the first of its kind at the Viacom-owned network family, came on the heels of a record-breaking season for half-hour comedy The Game -- the premiere pulled in nearly 8 million viewers -- which the Akils resurrected for BET more than a year after it was canceled by the CW. The couple is also readying a remake of the 1976 musical Sparkle starring Jordin Sparks, Cee Lo Green and Whitney Houston. Mara, 41, wrote the screenplay, and Salim, 47, is directing the Sony film in Detroit. Meanwhile, she's holding down the fort in Atlanta on production of the new season of Game, set to bow in January. The couple -- who have two sons, ages 7 and 2 -- have clearly figured out how to work together while maintaining harmony at home. "We have complementary strengths. I think we're magic together," says Mara. Of his wife, Salim says, "She has the ability to be detailed in a creative way, and I can see the big picture in a detailed way." Mara's first job was as a production assistant on The Sinbad Show, where she met producer Ralph Farquhar, who hired her as a writer's trainee on the short-lived Fox comedy South Central. She went on to write for The Jamie Foxx Show and Moesha before teaming with her husband on UPN's Girlfriends. Salim's big break came when he was hired to write on Showtime's Soul Food; he eventually worked his way up to showrunner. He credits his wife for inspiring him to leave his job at an outpatient clinic for schizophrenics and manic-depressives (he also worked at a mortuary) and focus on his writing. "She'd never read anything I'd written," he says. "When I finally showed her, she loved it and told me to quit my day job."