Kenya Barris is a name that rings bells all across our office. An inspiration for many and a leader to most, Barris is not afraid to take television to the next level. Inspired by Barris’ irreverent, highly flawed, unbelievably honest approach to parenting, relationships, race, and culture, Black Excellence looks to pull the curtain back and reboot the “family sitcom” in a way we’ve never seen before.
Netflix has ordered Black Excellence, their first series project with Kenya Barris with Barris and Rashida Jones set to star.
Black Excellence marks Barris’ first series with Netflix since making the streamer his home less than a year ago. Barris hasn’t been shy about his desire to flip the family sitcom and what it looks like on its head; and with the series officially launching its writers room last month, he is wasting little time getting to work on exploring and pushing those boundaries.
Kenya Barris is an award-winning writer, producer and director whose innovative approach to comedy has firmly cemented his place as one Hollywood’s great modern storytellers. With a focus on socially conscious storytelling that reflects our culture and tackles contemporary issues and themes, Barris’ work has earned him praise for telling poignant, powerful stories that make audiences more aware of the world around them while simultaneously making them laugh. In addition to his own creative voice and vision, Barris has a deep commitment towards mentorship that has become a staple of how he approaches both his career and production company, Khalabo Ink Society. With this as a pillar of the company’s creative process, Barris has grown the production company with the goal of establishing it as a creative collective, where collaboration is fostered and new talent can thrive.
Barris is perhaps best known as the television creator behind the hit series black-ish, an autobiographical sitcom inspired by his own life and experiences as a husband and father. A critical darling that has resonated with a broad range of audiences since its debut, black-ish has earned praise for offering insight into issues of race and class through its funny, truthful and timely portrayal of the Black experience. The series has proven to be a mainstay for the network and has launched two spin-off series – Freeform’s grown-ish and the newly-ordered mixed-ish at ABC. Additionally, Barris has several television projects in various stages of development including the multi-camera comedy Unrelated for Freeform and a remake of the popular 1960s sitcom Bewitched that will shift its focus to now center on an interracial blended family. Along with a booming television slate, Barris also continues to expand his work on the features side with two films being released this year — LITTLE, the body-swap comedy he produced starring Regina Hall, Marsai Martin and Issa Rae that hit theatres last month, and SHAFT, the high-profile next installment in the Shaft legacy from director Tim Story and a screenplay by Barris. Among his other upcoming feature projects COMING TO AMERICA 2, the highly anticipated sequel to John Landis’ 1980s classic starring Eddie Murphy, and an animated feature based on the songs of Bob Marley.
Whether it be comedic or dramatic, in film or in television, Rashida Jones has firmly established herself in the industry, not only as an actor but also as a prolific director, screenwriter, and producer. With Alan Hicks, Jones recently co-directed the documentary “Quincy” which premiered out of the Toronto International Film Festival last Fall and is currently on Netflix. The film boasts several nominations and awards, including a Grammy and a Critic’s Choice Documentary Award.
After a yearlong stint as Karen on The Office, Jones played Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation for seven seasons. Since then, she has starred, produced and directed throughout four seasons of the absurd and critically acclaimed Steve and Nancy Carell-created comedy Angie Tribeca on TBS, which boasts an impressive guest star roster: Bill Murray, Carl Reiner, Michelle Dockery, Heather Graham, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Ed Helms, Angelica Huston, Chris Pine, Niecy Nash, Joe Jonas, Alfred Molina, and on and on.
As a producer, Jones was nominated for an Emmy for the documentary Hot Girls Wanted. She also produced and co-created the follow up docuseries “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” with filmmakers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus.
Jones also is an executive producer on TNT’s hit dramedy Claws, which third season airs in June. Claws was developed under the Le Train Train banner, Jones’ production company, with long time writing partner Will McCormack. McCormack and Jones previously co-wrote, executive produced and starred in Celeste and Jesse Forever, served as executive producers on NBC’s A to Z and continue to develop several shows under their first look deal with Media Rights Capital.
Television writing credits include Nosedive, the third season premiere episode of Netflix original anthology Black Mirror (written by Jones and Mike Schur), which received an NAACP Award Nomination in the category Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture – Television.
Other acting television credits include “Boston Public,” “Wanted,” “Unhitched,” “NY-LON,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “The Chappelle Show,” “Key and Peele,” and “Portlandia.” Film credits include “Cuban Fury,” “The Muppets,” “The Big Year,” “Monogamy,” “The Social Network,” “I Love You, Man,” “Tag,” and “Zoe.”
Jones has directed three music videos: Mayer Hawthorne’s “Crime” (featuring Kendrick Lamar), Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” (which just reached 75 million views on YouTube), and “Flip and Rewind,” her collaboration with nephew Sunny Levine.
She is currently slated to write and co-direct the graphic novel adaptation “Goldie Vance” for Fox.
Next up, Jones will act opposite Bill Murray in On The Rocks, directed by Sofia Coppola.