12:42pm PT by Kate Stanhope
A&E Changes Title of KKK Docuseries Following Criticism
A&E is making a change.
The cabler on Friday unveiled a new title for its upcoming docuseries centered on the KKK, switching from Generation KKK to Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America.
Along with the title adjustment, A&E also announced a new partnership with Color of Change, the next-generation African-American civil-rights organization that counts over 1 million members. This marks the second such partnership tied to the upcoming unscripted series. When A&E first announced the project earlier this month, it also announced a similar partnership with the Anti-Defamation League.
"We are glad to have some of the country’s leading civil-rights organizations, including the ADL, Color of Change and others, as partners in this effort and look forward to working together to impact hate in America," said A&E and Lifetime executive vp and general manager Rob Sharenow. "We feel that this new title and enhanced partnerships, the in-show and after-show components and our outreach plan more broadly reflect the existing anti-hate content of the series and our longstanding intention. That goal is to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms, and we appreciate the valuable feedback we have received."
Added Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson: "After reviewing the promotions and episodes and participating in substantive conversations with A&E executives, we are pleased to see that the network is taking seriously concerns that the show — newly titled Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America — required important additional components, such as specific in-show educational context and content and a post-show town hall, as we both want to work together to ensure that it did not normalize and humanize racism and white supremacy. Black communities know all too well how perpetuating stereotypes and hateful rhetoric can empower a racist and violent agenda. At Color of Change, we recognize the power of TV and media images, and our work is rooted in creating a less harmful and hostile world for black people and all people. We look forward to seeing updated content that adds further context to the episodes and working closely with A&E on programming that articulates the network's intention of reversing racial hatred and violence, as well as finding ways to work with A&E and anyone else to end the rise of white supremacy and the hateful and violent tactics of the organizations that advance this ideology."
The announcements come after public outcry against the project. Earlier this week, Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo called for a boycott of A&E because of the docuseries in a series of tweets in which she called executives at the network "pathetic" and "desperate." She later pulled back, once A&E reached out to her, also on social media, to emphasize that the show was about exposing hate and extracting families from the Ku Klux Klan organization. Pompeo also tweeted Friday after the title change was announced to thank A&E for "for caring enough to make changes."
Premiering Jan. 10, the eight-episode series follows several family members who work with anti-hate “extractors” in order to help themselves or their family leave the Klan. The project hails from This Is Just a Test, the production company that went to A&E with the idea more than a year ago. Since then, cameras have been embedded with the KKK to facilitate dialogue between members of the Ku Klux Klan and and their family members hoping to leave the group.
The project has proven particularly timely because of the recent presidential election, as former Klan leader David Duke was an outspoken supporter of President-elect Donald Trump.
Sharenow spoke with THR about the project shortly after it was announced to defend the series order. "It's quite shocking, but I think that's important," he said. "As a broadcaster, I really think the message of anti-hate is important, timeless and moral. I fear that people will in some way think that it's a political statement — though [the election] is part of the backdrop of the show. We were filming during the campaign, but that's not what drove our interest. I have concerns that people will put a wall up, thinking it's a political statement — which it isn't."
Escaping the KKK is one of several newer serious, hard-hitting docuseries at the network, joining Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the cop-centered Live PD and the Emmy-winning Born This Way, which follows adults with Down syndrome.
Dec. 23, 5 p.m. Updated with Pompeo's reaction tweet.