8:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Ramy Youssef Inks Overall Deal With A24 (Exclusive)
Ramy Youssef's big year just got bigger.
The Golden Globe-nominated creator, writer, director, EP and star of Hulu's critical darling Ramy has signed an overall deal with the show's producer, A24.
Under the multiple-year pact, Youssef will create and develop new projects for the independent studio. Youssef is already hard at work on two additional TV shows for A24.
The first, for Apple, will star Ramy's Stephen Way in a story that Youssef described as illustrating the "perspective and the experience of a disabled person and their family in a real way." Youssef will exec produce that series as well as an untitled show in the works for Netflix, plot details for which are being kept under wraps.
Youssef opened up about his A24 deal and Apple and Netflix shows during an interview as part of Friday's special 2019-in-review episode of The Hollywood Reporter's TV's Top 5 podcast. Other projects are also in the works.
"What's been awesome is the relationship I've been able to build with A24 because we've made this show [Ramy] together and they know how I feel about the things I'd like to do in the TV space that go beyond my show," he told hosts Daniel Fienberg and Lesley Goldberg. "For the next couple years, we have a continued partnership. I have an overall with them where we'll be making more things."
Of the show with Way — whom Youssef has been friends with since high school — the actor-producer said he wants to explore stories about characters with disability who aren't "just a side character."
"Steve had an A-story storyline in season one but I want to build something around him that can show, 'What is it like to be a disabled person but also in a disabled community?' 'What is it like to be with other people who are going through similar things and not just being the one in someone else's story?' We're developing that with Apple right now," he said.
"In the same way that there are people who watch my show and their minds are blown by like, 'Whoa, I've never seen Arabs and Muslims just praying together and talking Arabic to each other in a contemporary and American format,' we want to do that for a character who has a disability and isn't just a side character," he said. "There's a bunch of other things I'm excited to hopefully get off the ground."
The common thread, he said, is he wants to make sure that everything he works on comes from a "personal and purposeful place." "My goal is what's organic? What can I really add value to? I'm excited to do that," he said. "Making things that really help people, it sounds cheesy, but to help people feel less lonely — that's really what our show has been able to do.… How can we make people feel less lonely? How can we cross that line but also feel seen? Getting to do that with stories I'm excited about. I'm excited to do that."
Other highlights from Youssef's interview with TV's Top 5 include details on how Ramy landed at Hulu after A24 shopped the project to multiple other outlets. "We felt really supported at Hulu from the beginning," he said. "Hulu gave a pilot commitment right away."
Youssef noted that the A24 deal will help him continue to a creative process that started in high school when he and his friends would make things together — only now, it's with "bigger budgets."
As for how long Ramy runs, the comedian envisions the single-camera series as something that will last for four or five seasons. "Our original window was three to four [seasons]…[but] as I've seen other characters, I know we have some more runway.… I want to really pace it out and make sure I feel close to the characters. I'd love to take a few years off then catch up with the character. It'll be cool to see how it shakes out."
Season two of Ramy is currently in production in New York. Mahershala Ali will have a multiple-episode guest arc on the series after the two-time Oscar winner reached out to Youssef as a fan and fellow Muslim. Youssef, in the interview below, also previews what to expect from Ali's storyline in season two and opens up about that cliff-hanger finale and the "consequences" to come when the show returns in 2020. Listen, below, starting at the 43:42 mark.