10:17am PT by Lacey Rose
Trevor Noah Taps Red Hour's Haroon Saleem to Lead Viacom-Backed Production Company (Exclusive)
Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions has found its leader.
The Daily Show host has tapped Haroon Saleem, formerly of Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films, to serve as the company’s president of production. He will remain based in Los Angeles and report directly to Noah in New York. The news comes as Noah himself has expressed his ambitions to ramp up considerably, with the backing of Comedy Central parent Viacom, through a previously announced joint-venture deal.
As part of the wide-ranging pact, which also sees Noah staying put at The Daily Show through 2022, Viacom now holds exclusive first-look rights to all Day Zero development across TV, films, digital and shortform video fare.
“Trevor is a transformative talent, and it is a privilege to lead the charge with him,” Saleem said Monday in a statement announcing the news, adding, "It has never felt more necessary to create sophisticated, essential content for our global audience, especially with, and for, marginalized voices. We will be genre-agnostic, with an eye for scripted and unscripted stories across a wide range of media platforms.”
Already in the pipeline is a feature adaptation, via Paramount Players, of Noah’s 2016 best-selling memoir Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood. Janine Eser (Fanie Fourie’s Lobola) is attached to pen the project, with Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o on board to play Noah’s mom, Patricia. The forthcoming film, on which the Daily Show host is intimately involved, has yet to cast a young Noah, a move poised to happen closer to production.
Though Noah and his team have been keeping its other projects under wraps, the intention is to move fluidly between drama and comedy, always with an eye toward fresh voices not unlike the multihyphenate’s. The current entries, which will utilize Noah in a producing capacity rather than as their star, are still in early stages of development.
Saleem brings to the international production and distribution company more than two decades' worth of industry experience, most recently serving as executive vp production at Red Hour, where he oversaw The Package for Netflix, as well as the upcoming Friendsgiving for Endeavor Content. Prior stints included working for producer Mark Johnson, Will Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment and Walden Media, where Saleem had a hand in such projects as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Pursuit of Happyness and I Am Legend.
Born on the Mediterranean coast of Libya and raised in a small desert town in Southern California, Saleem has been active politically and philanthropically, too. In fact, he helped create and lead “The 008,” a group that mobilized young Hollywood around then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential run, and, later, he became co-head of Generation Obama L.A., which was known for bundling more than $1.6 million for the Obama campaign. In 2010, Saleem also produced the preshow for the Stand Up to Cancer telecast, which was collectively viewed by 18 million-plus viewers and raised millions for cancer research.
“I could not be more excited and blessed to have Haroon join Day Zero as president,” said Noah of the company's first major hire. “His vision, authenticity and brilliance are the perfect attributes to help shape Day Zero into a producer of engaging and original content across all platforms, except VHS.”