Kenya Barris famously left his multiyear, nine-figure Netflix deal last year — before it was up — for another lucrative pact at ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global). The move echoed his 2018 decision to leave his longtime home at Disney, where he had clashed with executives over his ABC comedy Black-ish, for Netflix.
Barris has no regrets about either decision, he told The Hollywood Reporter, noting that he still has business at both Disney and Netflix.
“Everything worked out,” Barris told THR in an interview tied to Tuesday’s series finale of Black-ish. “I just got two shows on at Netflix. I have a movie, a very, very expensive movie” — a star-studded comedy featuring Jonah Hill, Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus — “at Netflix. I’m very good friends with Ted Sarandos. I have a board seat at [Paramount]. I am having a conversation with you about a show, one of my multiple shows at ABC.
“Everything works the way it’s supposed to work. In hindsight, I think the only thing that I would have done is bet more on the Rams,” Barris said with a laugh. “But everything has worked out the way it’s supposed to. I was really fortunate that I left those situations in really good places and kept really solid, strong friendships and relationships with all those people.”
Barris’ deal at Paramount includes a stake in BET Studios, where he’s a principal partner along with producer (and his #BlackAF co-star) Rashida Jones and SWAT co-creator Aaron Rahsaan Thomas. Barris is also developing his next TV project, which he wouldn’t say much about but described as “a piece of movie IP that we turned into a show that I’m really, really proud of.”
“I have something that I’m working on I’m really excited about and hopefully it becomes something that has a life of its own and becomes a different journey,” he said. “Nothing will ever compare to [Black-ish], but it will be something that maybe I can be proud of in a different sort of way.”
Barris also said he’s impressed by the work of creators like Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson, Grand Crew’s Phil Augusta Jackson and Euphoria’s Sam Levinson (“he’s doing the best show on television”), particularly as the pandemic has changed the nature of TV production.
“It’s not the same role,” he said. “I think it’s not the same world [as before the pandemic]. I think the next 18 to 24 months, we’ll start getting back to where we were. … People who have managed to do really great work in this environment deserve all the credit in the world, because it is unbelievably hard.”