Dear White People is coming to television. Netflix has given a 10-episode order to a half-hour comedy series based on Justin Simien’s acclaimed debut indie feature. Simien is writing the series adaptation and will direct the first episode. The series, which will begin filming later this year for a 2017 debut, will be produced by Lionsgate, whose sister company Roadside Attractions released the original film in 2014.
Set among a diverse group of students of color as they navigate a predominantly white Ivy League college where racial tensions are often swept under the rug, Dear White People is a send up of “post-racial” America that also weaves a universal story about forging one’s own unique path.
“Justin is a gifted storyteller whose bold, unique vision is perfectly suited to Netflix,” said Cindy Holland, VP of Original Content at Netflix. “His original film Dear White People announced the arrival of a fresh, creative voice that had everyone talking, and we’re excited to have Justin create this new series for our members worldwide.”
The Dear White People movie satire, which Simien wrote, directed and produced, originated with a concept trailer for his then-unproduced script that Simien made using his tax refund. The trailer went viral on YouTube, garnering over a million views and $50,000 in donations from fans around the world. The crowd funded movie went on to win Simien the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at Sundance and an Independent Spirit award for Best First Screenplay. (Watch the film’s trailer below)
In interviews surrounding the movie’s 2014 release, Simien had spoken of his desire to continue Dear White People as a TV series in the vein of A Different World, an idea he pursued in the past year and a half as the themes in the film became even more relevant.
“During the film’s release, I had the pleasure to speak with hundreds of students and faculty across a variety of college campuses dealing with these very issues in real time,” Simien said. “I’m so grateful to have this platform – not only to give a voice to those too often unheard in our culture, but to also tell great stories from new points of views.”
Simien executive produces the series with Devon Shepard (House of Lies) and the original movie’s Stephanie Allain Bray and Julia Lebedev.
“We’re proud to expand our partnership with our friends at Netflix on a comedy that tackles racial themes with a combination of intelligence, honesty, irreverence and wit,” said Chris Selak, EVP, Television, Lionsgate TV. “Our original film with Roadside Attractions catapulted Dear White People into the national conversation about race, and Justin and the rest of the creative team have an opportunity to expand this world and bring its timely and universal themes to a global television audience.”
Dear White People is Lionsgate’s second original series for Netflix, joining hit Orange Is The New Black, which returns for its fourth season on June 17.