Earlier this year, a dispute between Kenya Barris and ABC over a shelved black-ish episode caused many to wonder if Barris’s run at the network would soon be over. Just a few months after the episode was pulled from the air, Barris left ABC and signed an eight-figure deal with Netflix. Now, the writer and producer is speaking out about his departure and what really happened to that missing episode.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Barris said that “creative differences” weren’t the only reason the network pulled the episode, which has been described as a harsh rebuke of Donald Trump and his policies.
While Barris is still diplomatic about ABC’s decision—he said the network had “some concern about partisanship and the way the episode was angled and the balance in terms of some of the stories”—the show’s stars aren’t so forgiving.
Tracee Ellis Ross called ABC’s choice to pull the episode “frightening,” and Anthony Anderson chided the network for reneging on its promise. “We entered into this partnership with the understanding that we would be able to tell the stories that we wanted to tell,” he said.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC—which had added several shows with diverse casts over the years—has been trying to attract Republican-leaning viewers. It was why they decided to reboot Roseanne, a show that played well with Trump’s base.
Ironically, Roseanne was swiftly canceled after its star lobbed a racist attack at former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett. Barris’s stance on that controversy is clear.
“F–k Roseanne,” he said. “She’s a f–kin’ monster. And they were like, ‘Why is this monster killing villagers?’ And I was like, ‘Because that’s what a monster does.’ ”
Despite his strong opinions on the disgraced comedian, Barris remains deferential toward Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger. But the fight over the now infamous black-ish episode is one reason Barris began looking for another creative home.
“If I was going to step out, I wanted to do something where I could take off all the straps and really hang out of the plane,” he told The Hollywood Reporter’s Lacey Rose. “I want to be Netflix with attitude—loud, bold and unapologetic.”
Barris may be excited to tell more “unapologetic” stories at Netflix, but he said he was nervous about making the leap from network TV to the streaming platform. However, watching Shonda Rhimes migrate to Netflix helped him feel more confident about the move.
“I’m doing what I’m doing because of her. She’s a Black writer but she wrote shows, and that opened up the door for the types of things I wanted to do,” he explained. “And for someone who was that successful at network TV for that long to make that move [to Netflix] made me understand the atrophy that can happen.”
Barris, who will still remain as an executive producer on black-ish, said he hopes he’s able to produce projects that can shine on Netflix’s already stuffed platform.
“I don’t know if it’s scary for [Ryan Murphy] or Shonda, but I’m f–kin’ terrified,” he admitted. “One of my fears at Netflix is that there are so many shows, so it’s my job to make sure in that huge bundle we somehow find a way to be noisy.”
Given his track record of creating hits like Girls Trip, black-ish and grown-ish, we can’t wait to see what Barris does next.