Issa Rae Producing HBO Doc on Black TV Pioneers

Issa Rae attends the 2020 13th Annual ESSENCE Black Women - Getty -H 2020
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HBO has greenlit a two-part documentary about Black representation on television, with Issa Rae as one of its executive producers.

Seen & Heard, which is in production, will explore the history of Black television through the eyes of trailblazers who produced, created and starred in a number of groundbreaking series. Ark Media is producing.

HBO announced the documentary at its virtual Television Critics Association sessions Wednesday, along with The Lady and the Dale, a docuseries about an audacious con in the 1970s auto industry executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass.

"Black people have such a rich, but often unacknowledged history in Hollywood," said Rae, the creator and star of HBO's Insecure. "We have defined American culture and influenced generations time and time again across the globe. I'm honored to pair with Ark Media to center and celebrate the achievements of those who paved a way for so many of us to tell our stories on television."

Seen & Heard will feature interviews with actors, showrunners, writers and celebrities that offer commentary about representation in Black storytelling, along with verité-driven segments and archival material. Interviewees will reflect on their experiences watching African Americans on TV in the past and today and share insights into their current creative work and inspiration. The goal is to open a window into the larger evolution of Black storytellers throughout the history of the medium.

Phil Bertelsen (Who Killed Malcolm X?) is directing and producing Seen & Heard. Rae executive produces with Montrel McKay of Issa Rae Productions, 3 Arts Entertainment's Jonathan Berry and Dave Becky and Ark Media's Rachel Dretzin and Esther Dare.

The Lady and the Dale will recount the story of Elizabeth Carmichael, who claimed she was about to start manufacturing an extremely efficient, inexpensive three-wheeled car at the height of the 1970s gas crunch. As she attracts attention and investors, however, a web of mystery unfolds regarding the car's technology and Carmichael's past. 

Mark and Jay Duplass executive produce with Mel Eslyn of Duplass Brothers Productions, directors Nick Cammilleri and Zachary Drucker, Andre Gaines, Allen Bain and Alana Carithers.