J.J. Abrams, Norman Lear Join EIF and XQ for Live Telecast to Support "Super Schools"

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From left: J.J. Abrams, Norman Lear and Mahershala Ali

More than 60 "cultural influencers" will come together Sept. 8 for 'EIF Presents: XQ Super School Live,' a show with performances by Jennifer Hudson and Sheryl Crow, among others, broadcasting live on the big four broadcast networks.

"We need to flip conventional school design on its head," says Russlynn Ali, whose Project XQ works alongside the Laurene Powell Jobs-founded Emerson Collective to give grants (up to $10 million) to "Super Schools" that participate in a competition of ideas on how to revolutionize the outdated public school system.

In partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, more than 60 "cultural influencers," including J.J. Abrams, Norman Lear and Mahershala Ali, will come together for EIF Presents: XQ Super School Live, a show with performances by Jennifer Hudson and Sheryl Crow, among others, broadcasting live from Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport on Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. ET (tape-delayed on the West Coast) on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, will executive produce the special, whose goal is "to help bring awareness to the issue of high school education and ensure that our students are receiving an education that prepares them for the future," the couple said in a joint statement. The star-studded event will be produced by Done + Dusted and directed by awards-show veteran Hamish Hamilton; it will feature comedic sketches and documentary segments in addition to the live musical performances.

The goal is to show how educators, parents, school administrators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and students across the U.S. can influence change — and to offer insight for viewers about how they can effect change in their own communities.

Says Russlynn Ali, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama, "There's a real need of folks everywhere to be part of something that's hopeful and bigger than themselves and in the best interest of our country and young people."

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.