Kenya Barris' Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' Remake Is Coming Straight Out of Inglewood

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in California anymore!”

Variety / Variety via Getty Images

Kenya Barris is offering updates on two very high-profile projects he’s working on.

The writer and director made an appearance at the Variety Studio during Sundance Film Festival to reveal details on his forthcoming biopic of Richard Pryor, and reworks of The Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Barris says that the Pryor biopic, originally announced in 2020, will be a televised 10-part limited biographical series “from cradle to grave,” per Variety.

“From the earliest upbringing — he grew up in a ho house, or a house of ill repute — and became, at one point, the biggest star in the world,” he said. Barris is still developing the series on the comedian, who died in 2005.

“It is my baby. I love it. He is my comedy god. A super flawed guy, but who everything, to this day, the comedy that we remember — even including [Dave] Chappelle — is derivative of what he started," Barris said. "That honest, reflecting, observational look at what the world is and the differences between us that actually make us more similar than we are apart. I think telling his story and letting people see things that they didn’t know about him is something that I’m super excited to bring to life.”

In addition to his project on Pryor, the Black-ish creator and You People director shared updates about the script for his reimagining of The Wizard of Oz. The script is finished and apparently depicts Dorothy living in the Bottoms, a huge apartment complex in Inglewood, California, per Variety.

“The original Wizard of Oz took place during the Great Depression and it was about self-reliance and what people were going through,” Barris said.

“I think this is the perfect time to switch the characters and talk about what someone imagines their life could be. It’s ultimately a hero’s journey, someone thinks something’s better than where they’re at, and they go and realize that where they’re at is where they should be. I want people to be proud and happy about where they’re from. But I want the world to take a look at it and I hope that will come through.”

Speaking on his It’s a Wonderful Life remake with Paramount, Barris explained why he thinks the film’s premise, made famous in the original 1946 Christmas film, can be perfectly adapted to the perspective of a person of color.

“I feel like Christmas movies are amazing and I think the idea of taking something that has that long of a history and a tale behind it and putting an amazing piece of talent to tell that story,” Barris said. “It’s a guy who’s trying to help out his community and things are going to turn around on him. I think that’s the perfect story to tell for a person of color — Black or brown — to get into that because our communities have some issues and someone trying to help that community out. I think that’s the perfect vehicle to tell that story from.”

Barris continued, “I’m still a believer in IP. I think I get shit for it sometimes but I believe that the idea of some of those great stories – stories are all told again and again and again. So having the opportunity to take some of those IPs and tell them from a different point of a view is a gift that I hopefully keep getting.”

Barris did not provide timelines for either of these projects. However, fans can get their fill of other Oz-related content later this year when the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Wicked, starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, hits theaters on Nov. 24.

The Vince Staples Show, another Barris project, makes its Netflix debut on Feb. 15.

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