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The ish franchise may be adding another installment.
ABC is developing Old-ish, another spinoff from Kenya Barris’ Emmy-nominated flagship series Black-ish. The comedy would see Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis reprise their roles as Earl “Pops” Johnson and Ruby Johnson, the parents of Anthony Anderson’s Dre.
Fishburne — who has been an exec producer on Black-ish since its start — has been a recurring player on the series and appeared in more than 60 of the comedy’s 141 episodes thus far, while Lewis was promoted from recurring to series regular in season two.
Barris, who departed ABC for a lucrative overall deal with Netflix in August 2018, will pen the script and exec produce alongside Fishburne, Anderson and Artists First’s E. Brian Dobbins. Lewis will be credited as a producer. The single-camera comedy hails from ABC Signature, Fishburne and Helen Sugland’s Cinema Gypsy and Barris’ Khalabo Ink Society.
The spinoff will follow Ruby and Earl as they give love a second chance. When they move to a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of L.A., they’ll meet characters who represent the old and new faces of the community as they try to make it work as a married couple. Again.
Old-ish is the third spinoff in Barris’ ish empire which, in addition to the flagship series, includes ABC-turned-Freeform entry Grown-ish, starring Yara Shahidi, and Mixed-ish, a 1980s-set prequel built around the younger version of Tracee Ellis Ross’ character, Rainbow. While Grown-ish was originally developed for ABC, the network at the time thought it skewed too young. It was eventually picked up to series at Disney’s younger-skewing basic cable network, Freeform as its then head of originals Karey Burke (who is now president of entertainment at ABC) strongly pursued the series. Grown-ish, which has become a calling card for the cabler, returns for its fourth season in 2021. Mixed-ish, starring Arica Himmel, Tika Sumpter and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, will return for its second season on ABC sometime in the 2020-21 season.
While Barris has focused on developing film and TV projects for Netflix — his scripted comedy, Black AF, was recently picked up for a second season at the streamer — sources say that ABC’s Burke has remained friendly with the prolific showrunner. Sources note that Barris has also continued to be in touch with top Disney execs and recently pushed the company to release his shelved Black-ish episode, “Please, Baby, Please.” The episode, which was famously shelved in 2018, was released last month on Disney-owned Hulu. The move to shelve the politically-themed episode proved to be the last straw for Barris at Disney and the showrunner negotiated an early exit from his ABC deal and signed a three-year, eight-figure pact with Netflix in 2018.
Barris, who created the Peabody-winning Black-ish, remains actively involved in all of the ish shows. While others serve as showrunners, Barris has a carve out in his Netflix deal that allows him to remain deeply connected to the franchise. That he’s penning the script for Old-ish comes as a surprise given his lucrative Netflix deal.
#BlackAF is but one of multiple film and TV projects Barris and his Khalabo Ink Society banner have in the works as part of the company’s overall deal with Netflix. He also has a doc in the works about Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump, an animated music series Entergalatic and is in talks with the streaming giant for a Juneteenth-inspired musical with Pharrell Williams. Meanwhile, the Barris-produced comedy sketch show Astronomy Club was canceled after one season. He’s repped by CAA, Artists First and Morris Yorn.
Fishburne, meanwhile, is fresh off of Quibi’s FreeRayshawn. His TV series regular roles also include NBC’s Hannibal and CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He’s earned two Emmy wins, for guest actor in Tribeca and in the 1997 made for TV movie with Miss Evers’ Boys. On the big screen, his credits include the John Wick franchise, The Matrix, Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Passengers and Contagion. He earned a best actor Oscar nomination for 1994’s What’s Love Got to Do With It. He’s repped by CAA, Landmark Artists and Del Shaw.
Lewis, meanwhile, has been a staple on Black-ish since season two, earning nominations from the Critics Choice Awards and the Black Reel Awards, among others. Her credits include Strong Medicine, Girlfriends and voice roles in Tuca & Bertie and Elena of Avalor, as well as features The Addams Family (2019), Cars 3, It Had To Be You and The Wedding Ringer. She’s repped by Innovative Artists and Joe Walker Management.
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