What's Next for ABC's 'Black-ish' After Creator Kenya Barris' Exit
With his focus now at Netflix, the series' key voice is taking a step back from his TV creation: "I hope I'll be missed."
Kenya Barris arrived at his final Black-ish table read this summer with tears in his eyes. "You changed my life," he told the cast and crew assembled. "And I hope I'll be missed."
Though he will continue to read scripts and give notes, Barris is no longer a regular presence at Black-ish or its spinoff Grown-ish. When his new pact at Netflix began in mid-August, he moved his office to Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, where he now works with the streaming giant's other powerhouses, including Shonda Rhimes.
He left his flagship series in good hands, with Kenny Smith (Marlon) having returned to the series to co-showrun alongside veteran Jonathan Groff — but not before he spent his summer working through as many scripts as he could. "We did some pre-work to really make sure my voice was there," says Barris. With his input, the room prepped episodes that explore themes including the "gap year," which (spoiler alert!) the Johnson's oldest boy decides to take only after he's been dropped off at college, and Dre (Anthony Anderson) getting a little too comfortable calling the cops on people in his largely white neighborhood.
What could be harder to replicate without Barris is the episode he'd periodically turn in that was, as he's put it, "about something" — police brutality, the N-word, Donald Trump's win. The ones that Barris would write or co-write tended to be the most controversial — "I got really used to this notion that they'd have to go up the [executive] chain," he says with a mischievous smile — and also the ones that kept Black-ish firmly in the zeitgeist.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.