Under the pact, Smith, who had served as co-executive producer on the show’s third season, will be co-showrunner/executive producer alongside Jonathan Groff. In addition, under his new deal, Smith will develop new projects for both ABC Studios and ABC Signature Studios.
Smith recently returned to black-ish to become co-showrunner in the wake of series creator Kenya Barris’ exit from his ABC Studios overall deal. Barris, who has an rich overall deal pending at Netflix, had co-run black-ish with Groff for the the last three-and-a-half seasons.
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“We’re thrilled to sign Kenny to an overall deal at ABC Studios,” said Patrick Moran, President, ABC Studios. “Not only is he returning to the black-ish fold for season 5, but we’ll now have the opportunity to develop projects with him across all platforms.”
Smith, who was most recently co-executive producer on NBC/Universal TV’s summer series, Marlon, spoke with Deadline at ABC’s TCA party about the task of co-running black-ish.
“The pressure is on to maintain the critical acclaim,” he said. “The audiences love the show, and fans are rabid about it, so we have to make sure we keep the level up to the standard it has been, and hopefully maybe exceed it.”
He talked a little about the plans for next season. “We have some big episodes coming up — the premiere, in which we will be dealing with Junior’s gap year. We have the 100th episode coming. We will have the same fun we have always had and also some meaty topics to hit, we are dealing with race and and the black family,” Smith said, hinting that “the second episode will jump back into that with something meaty and topical.”
The show also will focus more on the twins, Miles and Marsai. “We’d never had that, 13-14 year-olds on the show. Now we are dealing with middle school issues, which generates new stories,” Smith said. (The Johnsons’ older children, Junior and Zoey, were already in high school when the series started.)
If everything goes well, “the show could probably go for the next 10 years because we try to deal with issues that families in general deal with, black American families and also stories that any families can relate to,” Smith said of black-ish.
He noted that Barris is still involved, reads scripts for the new season and gives his blessing. Smith and Barris worked together for years on The Game in addition to the third season of black-ish, so “we have a shorthand,” Smith said.
As for recent allegations against black-ish star Anthony Anderson, “all we know is what has been in the media,” Smith said. “We are working hard on the new season.”
Smith shared an Emmy nomination and won an NAACP award for his work in season 3 on black-ish. He was also a co-executive producer of ABC’s TV adaptation of Uncle Buck. Before that, he was the showrunner for BET’s longest running and highest rated series, The Game, where he executive produced the final three seasons and directed over a dozen episodes. Smith is repped by APA, Circle of Confusion and attorney Bruce Gellman.
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