Kenya Barris is ready to explain why he walked away from his $100 million deal with Netflix: In his words, the streaming service “became CBS.”
The producer behind ABC’s Black-ish and Freeform’s Grown-ish says Netflix didn’t appreciate his “edgy” voice, so he left the streamer before his deal expired, he tells The Hollywood Reporter.
“I think a lot of people thought I got fired or I quit, like ‘f— this,’ over some kind of beef with Netflix,” Barris said in his first interview since departing the streaming service. “I just don’t know that my voice is Netflix’s voice. The stuff I want to do is a little bit more edgy, a little more highbrow, a little more heady, and I think Netflix wants down the middle.”
He then paused before adding, “Netflix became CBS.”
Amanda Edwards/WireImage ‘Black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris
In 2018, Barris joined big-name recruits Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes to sign an exclusive producing deal at Netflix. At the time, reports revealed that Barris’ relationship with ABC had soured because the network refused to air a Black-ish episode that addressed hot-button political and social issues.
Once he settled in at Netflix, Barris created series like the semi-autobiographical comedy Black AF. However, he told THR that it won’t move forward with a second season, though it is looking to turn it into a film franchise.
“I was f—king terrified,” Barris said of first joining the streamer. “[Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos] had come and saved me with a beyond-generous offer, and he let me act, and I’m not an actor, in a show that wasn’t their cup of tea. And they paid a ton of money for that show, they let me put on Deon Cole’s special and an experimental sketch comedy show [Astronomy Club], they gave me beautiful offices, and they never knocked on my door and asked what I was doing. I was like, ‘Is this the definition of ungrateful?'”
The über-producer also addressed accusations that he is “making TV for white people.” “That’s Hollywood. That’s the people who made the movies I love,” he said. “Why would I not want them to like what I do? People are like, ‘You’re tap-dancing.’ And I’m like, ‘Am I tap- dancing, or am I wanting Michael Jordan to think I’m good, and I’m LeBron James?'”
Barris is now partnering with ViacomCBS and BET to form a boutique studio, and he has signed a first-look film deal with Paramount Studios. He also has a podcast deal with Audible and a book contract with Random House. “I want to do in-your-face sh—,” Barris told THR. “I want to sell to everybody – and if you don’t want to work with me, I’m not saying that you’re racist, but other people might.”
Representatives for Netflix declined EW’s request for comment.
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