EXCLUSIVE: Netflix is in talks with Black-ish and BlackAF creator Kenya Barris and Happy singer Pharrell Williams to develop a feature-length musical about Juneteenth – the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.
Deadline understands that the streamer and the pair are in the early stages of working up a plan for the project, and details about storyline are under wraps, although sources say it is a separate project to the live musical that they announced in 2018.
Williams will produce this project with partner Mimi Valdes alongside Barris, who will produce through his production company Khalabo Ink Society.
Williams has just returned from his home state of Virginia, where he announced with Governor Northam that Juneteenth will be recognized as a paid state holiday for the first time in Virginia history.
At that event, Williams, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song for Despicable Me 2’s Happy and for Best Picture for Hidden Figures, which he was one of the producers, said that the move was a chance for the government, corporations and citizens to “stand in solidarity with their African American brothers and sisters.”
“This year, Juneteenth will look like no other Juneteenth before it,” he added.
Virginia and New York joined Texas as the states that recognize Juneteenth, which celebrates June 19, 1865, the day that General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that slaves were now free, as a state holiday. Calls to make Juneteenth a federal holiday have increased over the last few weeks following the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests around police brutality and increasing conversation around systemic racism in the country.
Barris has also been vocal about his ambition to make Juneteenth a national holiday. His latest series BlackAF, which launched on Netflix in April, featured a Juneteenth party and his ABC comedy Black-ish dedicated a landmark episode to mark the holiday. That episode, which kicked off the show’s fourth season, has been lauded for bringing even more attention to the date. It was rebroadcast by ABC on Blackout Tuesday. Barris has said that it’s one of the most meaningful things that he’s ever worked on.
A number of major Hollywood companies including CAA, Endeavor, ICM, UTA, Gersh, APA, SAG-AFTRA, The Lede Company and R&C/PMK as well as the likes of Spotify and Twitter have recognized Juneteenth and have made it an annual paid holiday.
Barris is represented by Artists First and attorney Gregg Gellman and Williams is repped by manager Ron Laffite and WME.