EXCLUSIVE: Lee Daniels has picked a new President for the TV arm of his production company and to run his Inclusion Fund.
Moving up from Head of Development for Lee Daniels Entertainment, to boss of Lee Daniels Television, Marc Velez will now run point on all new smalls screen projects for the Oscar nominee’s shingle, I’ve learned. At the same time, in a display of the emphasis the Empire co-creator is putting on bringing new voices and new talent into the industry, ex-Imagine and ex-Weinstein Company SVP Velez will run the Lee Daniels Inclusion Fund for his WME-signed boss.
“It’s so boss having Marc at the helm of LDE TV” Star co-creator Daniels told Deadline today of Velez’s promotion. “He is one of the most creative minds in the game and I’m beyond proud to be working alongside another gay man of color,” added the Lee Daniels Entertainment CEO. “It is an exciting time at LDE TV with fresh, diverse television projects coming down the pipeline and to have an accomplished executive like Marc leading the charge, I know LDE TV is poised for a phenomenal future.”
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The Inclusion Fund is already seeing results for LDE and its new voices initiative with the recent opening of Star scribe Jordon E. Cooper’s acclaimed debut off-Broadway play Ain’t No Mo, which Daniels produced. Introduced to LDE by Velez, the author of the satirical back to Africa stage show, which currently has a run at NYC’s Public Theater, has a pilot at Hulu.
In the structure of the overall company, Pamela Oas Williams will be exiting her role as the head of Lee Daniels Televison to become a producing partner on the company’s film and TV projects. In his new role, Velez will report directly to Daniels, who is deeply invested in LDE on a day-to-day basis.
At the same time as Velez has moved up to the top TV position at LDE, former Tom Welling creative exec Erin Smithey has been brought on board as director of Development.
Having reupped his 2015 overall deal with Fox last year, Daniels and LDE have a plethora of projects in the pipeline such as the FOX set Ms. Pat, Mason Dixon, Laveau and The Spook Who Sat By The Door. Last summer, Daniels’ company optioned Sam Greenlee’s spy novel to develop as a series based on the book and the 1970s cult classic Blaxploitation film of the same name with the now Disney-owned Fox 21 Television Studios.
Currently airing on Fox, Empire is in its fifth season with the finale set for April 26. The hit hip-hop drama that Daniels co-created with Danny Strong is widely expected to be renewed for a sixth season.
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