Kenya Barris is a step closer to bringing the life of Richard Pryor to the screen. In 2020, it was announced that the “Black-ish” creator was set to make his feature film directorial debut with an untitled biopic about the late comedian.
Somewhere in the process, those plans were scrapped, and Barris would ultimately mark his first foray onto the big screen with the 2023 rom-com You People, starring Eddie Murphy, Jonah Hill, Lauren London and Nia Long. But the Pryor biopic remains a priority, only now it is getting the TV treatment.
“It’s a 10-part limited biographical series that takes a look from cradle to grave. From his earliest upbringing — he grew up in a ho house, or a house of ill repute — and became, at one point, the biggest star in the world,” Barris told Variety in a new interview while at the Sundance Film Festival.
He continued, “It is my baby. I love it. He is my comedy god. A super flawed guy, but who everything, to this day, the comedy that we remember — even including [Dave] Chappelle — is derivative of what he started. That honest, reflecting, observational look at what the world is and the differences between us that actually make us more similar than we are apart. I think telling his story and letting people see things that they didn’t know about him is something that I’m super excited to bring to life.”
Still in the throes of development, decisions about castings have not yet been publicly broached. However, as many fans know, Mike Epps has long expressed his desire to portray the comedic icon on film. In 2021, that dream was partly realized when the Next Friday star took on the role of Pryor for the HBO series “Wining Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”
Other projects coming down the pipeline for Barris include the somewhat controversial reimagining of The Wizard of Oz. Black Twitter, in particular, has expressed critical views about his work. The “Black AF” actor and creator is fully aware of those comments. “I’m still a believer in IP, and I think I get s**t for it sometimes, but I still believe, like, the ideas of some of those great stories,” he told the outlet.
Like The Wiz, a 1987 Oz-inspired film starring Diana Ross, Barris is enlisting a Black actress for the lead role. The story will be set in Inglewood’s gang-riddled “Bottoms” apartment complex. “This is the perfect time to sort of, like, switch up the characters and talk about what someone imagines their life to be. It’s ultimately a hero’s journey. Someone thinks something is better than where they’re at and they go and realize they’re where they should be,” he said.
A projected release date has not been announced.