ABC, Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends, The High Note), and Kenya Barris (Grown-ish, #BlackAF) are among defendants in a lawsuit claiming they stole the concept for ABC comedy Mixed-ish. According to The Hollywood Reporter, actress Hayley Marie Norman (Hancock, Top Five) alleges the Black-ish spinoff is based on an original series she conceived in 2016.
Norman alleges her series Mixed was based on her own upbringing as a biracial child, via The Hollywood Reporter. Described as “a 30-minute sitcom, employing flashbacks, that follows the journey of a mixed-race female protagonist as she grapples with her biracial identity while living in the suburbs surrounded by both sides of her African American and Caucasian families,” Norman was set to write, executive produce and star in the show after signing a deal with Big Breakfast in 2017. This production company was umbrellaed under Artists First, which counted Ross and Barris as clients.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Norman alleges Ross and her manager, Brian Dobbins, both worked on the development of her series, which they attempted to pitch to Barris. He declined with no interest in the show. Norman then allegedly pitched the show to multiple networks and platforms in 2018. All suitors – which included premium networks HBO and Showtime, and streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon – passed on the series. Norman alleges Ross proposed revisiting the series in January 2019, but that was short-lived as the news of Black-ish’s second spinoff at ABC was announced a month later.
“The premise is identical, its portrayal is identical, its setting is identical, and its tone is identical,” Norman’s attorney Michael Plonsker stated in the complaint, via The Hollywood Reporter. Norman is suing for breach of contract, breach of confidence, intentional misrepresentation, and intentional interference with contract. She hopes to secure compensatory and punitive damages along with restitution of funds the creators have made in connection with Mixed-ish.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the ethnic background of Rainbow Johnson – a character loosely based on Barris’ real-life wife at the time – was established in a Black-ish episode which aired in March of 2015. This would have been two years prior to Norman’s deal with Big Breakfast. Mixed-ish was the second spinoff from Barris’ original family comedy, following the 2018 debut of Freeform’s Grown-ish. It was recently announced a fourth series featuring Jenifer Lewis and Laurence Fishburne’s Blackish characters is in development at ABC.