From long-standing legends like Grey’s Anatomy to recent masterpieces like I May Destroy You, some of the TV shows we know and love have been the creative triumphs of Black TV writers.
Come along with us as we shine a well-deserved spotlight on a handful of the Black TV writers who are making waves in the industry today.
In the discussion of prominent Black TV writers, a name that immediately comes to mind is Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes has created multiple hit series, including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” in which she highlights diverse casts and explores complex storylines centered around race, gender, and injustice.
Her production company, Shondaland, continues to impact the television landscape, elevating inclusive stories to the forefront. One of the most recent productions, “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” not only places Black women in powerful leading roles but also seamlessly intertwines other important narratives such as interracial love, LGBTQ+ romance, and disability representation.
Among the most prolific and impactful Black TV writers, Kenya Barris is best known for creating the popular ABC comedy series “Black-ish,” “Grown-ish,” and “Mixed-ish,” along with a mockumentary surrounding his own life titled “#blackAF”—which was comedy gold, but tempered by Covid and the pandemic and Kenya departing from Netflix.
In his work, Barris uses a comedic lens to navigate issues of race, identity, culture, and colorism with both humor and heart, broadcasting these issues to a larger audience. Branching beyond just entertainment, Barris’s writing challenges viewers to confront uncomfortable truths while also fostering a sense of unity.
Barris continues to support and uplift the stories of Black creators outside his own shows. He is the founder and CEO of the production company Khalabo Ink Society, as well as a stakeholder in BET Studios, a production division of BET.
Michaela Coel has risen to stardom as a jack of all trades, communicating stories as an actress, producer, director, singer, and, of course, a screenwriter. Coel’s debut series, “Chewing Gum,” based on her own one-woman show, tells the semi-autobiographical story of balancing her Christian convictions with the desire to explore sexuality and learn more about the world. The series won a number of awards, including the Royal Television Society Programme Award for Comedy Writers.
In 2020, Coel released her dark comedy series, “I May Destroy You”. Written, directed, produced, and led by Coel, the series fearlessly tackles themes of identity, modern-day consent, and the aftermath of trauma. Her work is a testament to the power of storytelling as a means of healing, recovering, and understanding the self, especially for survivors of sexual assault.
Of Course, There Are Many More
These outstanding Black writers continue to sculpt the future of television with their authentic and unique storytelling. But of course, they are not alone. Other major names include Lena Waithe, Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay, Justin Simien, and Prentice Penny.
They are all trailblazing a path for more inclusive media, their work amplifies underrepresented voices and bears witness to the necessity of Black representation in television writing rooms. Without their indispensable and imaginative contributions, many of the shows we love would not exist today.
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