HBO intends to adapt the popular OpenTV web series Brown Girls into a television series, The Verge reports. The web series, which originally debuted on Elle.com, follows in the path of HBO’s recent habit of using web series as source material for new television shows. Last year, the network picked up Issa Rae’s YouTube series Awkward Black Girl to create the critically acclaimed comedy Insecure as well as Ben Sinclair’s Vimeo series High Maintenance to create a series of the same name.
Show creators Fatimah Asghar (popular poet and writer for the web series) and Samantha Bailey (director for both Brown Girls and another OpenTV webseries called You’re So Talented) revealed the plans for the HBO adaptation in a recent interview with Elle Magazine. Brown Girls follows best friends Leila (played by Nabila Hossain) and Patricia (Sonia Denis) through their lives in Chicago and exploration of their identities, relationships, and sexualities.
Speaking to the intentions that she and Bailey have for the television adaptation, Asghar says, “When we talked about the show to HBO, we told them that we wanted to show how they were resourcefully fly.” Asghar explained that the characters on the web series deal with real, grounded issues where they do not have enormous amounts of disposable income, and that she and Bailey want to keep that dynamic going forward. “We don’t want a show that is flashy and smooth. We want a show that is gritty. That has this kind of realness to it.”
Asghar also detailed how she sees the HBO adaptation as an opportunity to allow Brown Girls to flourish and grow as a complex, nuanced series that carries political clout. She added, “I want [the TV show] to be very Chicago-focused and queer folks of color–focused. And to have women of color and queer people of color be the protagonists and the antagonists in their own story. That’s very important to me.”
Nabila Hossain’s character in Brown Girls, Leila, is a queer Muslim woman, while Sonia Denis’ character Patricia is a young black woman. HBO’s choice to pursue a story which focuses on representing races and sexualities that are not traditionally seen in television signals the network’s continued effort towards creating shows that are politically relevant and progressive. Recent HBO series such as Issa Rae’s Insecure and Westworld have been lauded for such qualities; Insecure was celebrated by critics for its representation of black women as well as its humorous yet biting racial commentary, while Westworld is continually praised for its gender politics and feminist core.
In fact, Asghar attributes the attention given to Brown Girls by HBO to Issa Rae and her own journey from YouTube to premium cable. “I don’t think we could be possible without Issa Rae,” Asghar admits. “Without Issa, and all the things she did to knock doors open, people would not have looked at us or taken us seriously.” Asghar concluded the interview by describing her hopes that Brown Girls can do the same for others. “[Issa Rae] kind of paved the way for us and we can do that for other folks. I hope we can do that for other girls.”