Kenya Barris’ Netflix show #BlackAF will not be returning for a second season despite the fact that it was already renewed last summer.
The 46-year-old writer, producer, and star of the series exited a huge $100M deal with the service after they had made plans to move forward with more projects, because he wanted to do stuff that was ‘more edgy.’
Speaking about taking his talents to newly created BET Studios — which he has a stake in — Barris disclosed to the Hollywood Reporter that he wants to make ‘in-your-face s**t,’ whereas Netflix was interested in ‘down the middle’ content.
Living on the edge: Kenya Barris talks about backing out of $100M Netflix deal and pulling #BlackAF season two in favor of BET Studios as he says the streaming service wasn’t ‘edgy’ enough for him; pictured 2020
Speaking about the show — which is based on the Grown-ish and Black-ish creators own life — Kenya said that he struggled to present his ideas to Netflix because some of his ideas weren’t in their wheelhouse though they graciously gave him shot after shot.
‘I just don’t know that my voice is Netflix’s voice,’ he told the publication. ‘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 is however slated to work with the streaming service on two stand-alone #BlackAF movies and he has also been flirting with ideas of #blackAF: Brazil and #blackAF: Mexico.
But Kenya continued to say that he had already been shopping around for new content homes that are independent of Netflix and its ViacomCBS umbrella, including Hulu, Starz and Apple for future projects.
Backing out: Though the series was already picked up for a second season Barris made the decision to back out of an $100M Netflix deal because they were too ‘down the middle’ for his ideas
Striking out: Barris divulged that though his content was too edgy for the service, others had accused his content of being white-washed versions of the Black experience
‘I want to do in-your-face s**t. 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,’ he said of his decision to look elsewhere.
He had been accused of making white-washed content about the Black experience and got criticism from many people including personality Charlamagne Tha God.
Amid last summer’s racial uproar around the shooting of both George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, Barris said he wanted to ‘be part of the conversation in a different way,’ which led him to think of a life without Netflix.
He had met with BET president Scott Mills in 2018 and after revisiting the idea of partnering up with them in some capacity in 2020, he realized that he could add value as they had always struggled to produce engaging content.
‘BET was always like secondhand embarrassment because it wasn’t at that same level,’ he said of other networks, which prompted him to consider working with them to add credibility and draw eyeballs.
Pivot: The show was renewed last summer but after the Black Lives Matter movements picked up speed among fatal shootings, Barris’ pondered adding value by moving to a historically black home like BET
In the interview he also cited the nitty gritty details of finances confessing that he asked his CAA agent Joe Cohen if BET would match his $100M Netflix deal and the conversation quickly picked up to the point where they posed an offer he couldn’t refuse.
BET discussed the idea of creating a new Black-owned studio — now BET Studios — with Barris as partner to which he confessed: ‘It was not the conversation I expected to have in any way, shape or form, but I said, ‘The short answer is yes,” of inking that deal.
Despite an exciting new feat beyond his wildest dreams Barris was then forced to back out of the deal with Netflix which he candidly said made him wonder if it was largely ‘ungrateful,’ for all they’d done for him.
‘I was f***ing terrified,’ he said. ‘This dude 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…I was like, ‘Is this the definition of ungrateful?’
Everything turned out fine as Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said they’d still be working with Kenya on ‘many fronts’: ‘The good news for us is we’re still in business with Kenya on many fronts, and we’ll be in business with him for a long time to come.’
Studio to build: Barris is now in the process of creating a Black-owned studio with BET but will still be working with Netflix on ‘many fronts’ including two stand alone #BlackAF vacation films; pictured January 2020