EXCLUSIVE: The century-old story of Bruce’s Beach, which has been garnering national attention amid an effort to return the land to the owners’ descendants, will be subject of a scripted TV series. The project, from Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions, is in development at Amazon Studios.
Bruce’s Beach was a beach resort in the city of Manhattan Beach, near Los Angeles, in the early 1900s. Owned by and operated for African Americans, Bruce’s Beach provided opportunities for the Black community that were not available at other beach areas because of racial segregation. The series plans to explore the dynamic life of the Bruce’s Beach community in the spirit of Black livelihood and leisure, as envisioned by the Bruce family in its creation.
Amazon Studios has acquired Alison Rose Jefferson’s book Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era, which includes the story of Bruce’s Beach and will be used as source material for the series. Jefferson will serve as a consulting producer, while Plan B’s Gabby Shepard and JuVee’s Andrew Wang will executive produce and run point on the project.
Shepard brought in the idea for the project shortly after discovering the Bruce’s Beach park in the summer of 2020; reading further into its history.
In 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce bought land in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County, where the couple built a beach lodge as a space for Black people to vacation freely under the care of Black-owned enterprise. Over 10-years, it flourished into a thriving beach resort with a jazz dancehall, restaurant, oceanside sports, spa and community events in the California sunshine. Willa Bruce became something of a local celebrity, appearing in newspapers as the face of the boisterous new resort. On June 27, 1912, Willa Bruce was quoted as saying, “Wherever we have tried to buy land for a beach resort we have been refused, but I own this land and I am going to keep it.”
But she didn’t get to enjoy Bruce’s Beach’s vibrant success for long. The resort was terrorized by a nearby chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and city law enforcement until the Manhattan Beach City Counsel officially took the land from the Bruce Family through eminent domain proceedings in 1924, ending the resort.
The Bruce family, with support from local and national organizers have been pushing for restoration of the land — now valued at tens of millions of dollars — and restitution for their losses from the City of Manhattan Beach.
Two parcels of the land closest to the surf became owned by the state of California in 1948 and were transferred to L.A. County in 1995. A bill that would allow the county to return the two parcels back to Bruce descendants is headed for a vote in the full California Senate as early as today.
Bruce descendent, Anthony Bruce, will serve as a consultant on the series. Family member and spokesperson Chief Duane “Yellow Feather” Shepard will serve as a consulting producer, with fellow family member Jason Jones also serving as a consultant.
“I look forward to this TV project because it will be an opportunity to showcase the depth of the Bruce family story,” said Bruce. I trust that people will learn the truth, not only about others, but about themselves as well.”
Amazon Studios and Plan B most recently teamed on Barry Jenkins’ Underground Railroad, which just launched on the streamer to strong reviews.
Plan B is repped by CAA. JuVee is repped by CAA, the Lasher Group, and attorney James M. Feldman of Lichter Grossman Nichols. Jefferson is repped by attorney Bob L. Johnson. Anthony Bruce and Duane Shepard are repped by Donnice Wilson and attorney Sloan P. Whiteside at Del, Shaw, Moonves. Shepard also is repped by Donnice Wilson and The Privileged Talent Agency. Jones is repped by David Manella of Loeb & Loeb.