'Black-ish' Creator Kenya Barris Opens Up About Why He Left ABC and Landed at Netflix

The Emmy-nominated showrunner said there were many factors that led to his decision; however, the scrapped "anti-Trump" 'Black-ish' episode was a big part of the move. He recently signed a $100 million Netflix deal.

Kenya Barris

Image via Getty/Earl Gibson III

Kenya Barris

Nearly one month after he confirmed his exit from ABC, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris has opened up about his departure and the factors that led to his move.

The Emmy-nominated showrunner, who recently inked a $100 million Netflix deal, told The Hollywood Reporter his decision ultimately came down to creative differences as well as creative freedom. He pointed to the politically charged Black-ish episode that was scrapped just days before it was set to air. According to the THR profile, ABC executives chose to shelve the episode because they feared it was too “anti-Trump.”

Per the article:

Executives at ABC, more than any other network, have been forthright about their desire for more red-state programming since Trump’s win—and with Barris’ latest episode, they feared they’d be alienating the very population they’d tried so hard to court. That Disney brass wouldn’t want to poke Trump himself just as the company was seeking Justice Department approval of its acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox is widely believed to have been a factor as well.

The episode, titled "Please, Baby, Please," was centered on Dre telling his son Devante a bedtime story. It reportedly included news footage of Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick’s on-field protests, as well as the deadly Charlottesville rally of August 2017. Though these were obviously controversial topics, Barris insisted the story was intended to alleviate the fear and pain many Americans have experienced within the last year.

“When you're putting a baby to sleep, you're trying to soothe whatever anxieties they're having. So, this was about me trying to pat the butt of the country and soothe people,” he explained. He went on to add, "There's this P.C. culture that’s been created where people feel like not talking about things makes it better, but I think it makes it worse and that's why I wanted to talk about the last year.”

"Please, Baby, Please," reportedly had a $3 million budget, as it featured animation by a top-tier illustrator as well as a voiceover from Spike Lee. In an effort to save the show, as well as money, ABC requested alterations to the episode; however, Barris said he and the network executives weren’t happy with the changes, so it was ultimately canned.

“What it ended up being, and I think the network would agree, was not a true representation of what we intended to do,” he says. “Because if it was, we would've shown it.”

Barris said the "Please, Baby, Please" debacle was just one of the many reasons he decided to leave ABC for Netflix. The article also pointed to the slew of pilots the network didn't green light, Grown-ish—the Black-ish spinoff—being pushed on to the "lesser-watched" Freeform network, as well as the Roseanne Barr controversy. Barris told THR he was prepared to speak out if the network hadn’t decided to cancel the show following Barr’s racist comments.

“Because fuck Roseanne,” he said. “She's a fuckin’ monster. And they were like, ‘Why is this monster killing villagers?’ And I was like, ‘Because that's what a monster does.’”

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