To be blessed with a natural gift is one thing, but to use it to share stories with the world is another.
For decades, Rodney Barnes has used his love of storytelling to share some of the culture’s favorite tales as a renowned screenwriter for television shows that include “Everybody Hates Chris,” “The Boondocks,” “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” and many more.
“My English teachers used to say I had a gift with words,” Barnes told REVOLT in an exclusive interview when asked about how he discovered his unique approach to storytelling. “I sort of figured out early on that storytelling — and stories, in general — was something that I was deeply interested in and wanted to get better at naturally, you know. And so, over the years, I just kept working on it. Every other day.”
Now, he’s paying homage to cult classic Blacula, which was released in 1972 and dubbed one of the top blaxploitation films in history. Through his publishing imprint, Zombie Love Studios, Barnes released his highly anticipated graphic novel “Blacula: Return of the King,” bringing a modern-day twist to the character.
In true Barnes fashion, it only took a conversation about his love for Blacula to ultimately land the literary rights to bring the film to life via his latest novel. Now, his goal is to have this body of art connect the past to the present.
“And really what I want ‘Blacula’ to be is a connection from the past to the present. I loved the movie as a kid. There were some problematic elements to it just because blaxploitation was what it was, you know, with the lower budgets, and they did the best they could with what they had. But it was really one of the better ones, in my opinion, during that period of time,” Barnes explained. “And there’s so much under-blessed rotation of that period, like you had the civil rights movement in the fashion. You just had the subversive field and the great soundtracks that I felt really connected with today’s world. I mean, we’re still going through a degree of social upheaval and deciding what we want to be as a nation. And our culture is still going through a similar fight that we were going through in the ’70s. So, for me, being able to take the parts of that period of time in 1972, when the movie originally came out, and infuse them in a story today was an exciting challenge. And that’s sort of what I did.”
In fact, Barnes’ Zombie Love Studios was created to tell the stories he believes the culture needs. “Zombie Love Studios really came about because, you know, as a writer and a producer, nine times out of 10, you’re pitching to someone, and pitching a TV show, and pitching a movie, and pitching a book. And I wanted to create a dynamic where I was able to just think of something, bring it to life, and we didn’t have to go through a middleman,” he said. “We didn’t have to go through a process. The process was me getting up and just starting to write and put it together — and that was the beginning of it. Along the way, [I just found] some really talented folks to come along and become a part of the journey and, so far, it seems to have worked out.”
As someone with both experience and the talent to match, Barnes acknowledged that his constant spirit of gratitude is just one small factor in what has kept him booked and busy. “All in all, I think for me, it’s really just being fortunate more than anything else, and finding the right thing at the right time for me, and fortunately [being] connected to the people,” he told REVOLT.
Beyond his “Blacula: Return of The King” novel, Rodney Barnes said fans can expect a lot of exciting new stories from him and his team in the near future. “I just released another book, ‘Monarch,’ which is sort of an alien attack at a middle school in Compton that came out for Image Comics. I’m doing the Jack Johnson story for HBO with Mahershala Ali, and I’m excited about that,” Barnes added. “And a lot of other cool stuff that is soon to come.”