Today, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was struck with a more than $1M lawsuit claiming that he ripped off the idea for the ABC hit show.
Bryan Barber, music video director and writer/director of Idlewild, claims that Barris used his idea for the Original Untitled Script and wrote, developed and shopped the pilot episode for Black-ish without Barber’s knowledge or permission. The breach of contract and fraud jury-trial-seeking complaint was filed in L.A. Superior Court on Friday, according to Deadline. “Indeed, Defendant Barris intentionally concealed these facts from Plaintiff,” the complaint says. “The pilot episode for Black-ish was predicated in all material respects on Plaintiff’s idea and/or the Original Untitled Script.”
In the lawsuit filed Barber says he and Barris both became writers with agents at William Morris. According to Barber, they became partners in 2006 and crafted a script focusing on the “black experience” … through the eyes of a “successful, creative and affluent black man” working in the mostly white entertainment industry,” which sounds awfully similar to Black-ish.
Barber claims that the yet to be produced script, co-written by Barris and based on Barber’s life, was taken by Barris and molded into what is now Black-ish. The suit acknowledges several similarities between the initial project and Black-ish such as the main character’s wife being named “Rainbow” and overlapping plot lines and intent. “Both works conclude with the protagonist overcoming challenges with race relations, adapting to his professional environment, and coming to terms with his ‘blackish-ness,’” the complaint states.
Unlike many of the plaintiffs who file such lawsuits after a project has become successful, Barber has a legitimacy to him given that he is established in the entertainment industry as a director and has shown that he and Barris worked together at one point.
In addition to suing Barris and the Black-ish production company for at least $1 million, Barber seeks full accounting, creator and writer credit and compensation on the show. He also wants a piece of “all derivative, ancillary and merchandising rights and interests.”