ABC sitcom “black-ish” is about to kick off its third season, but a man has come forward claiming that series creator Kenya Barris stole the idea for the show from him, and he’s launched a lawsuit demanding more than $1 million in damages.
Deadline has obtained a copy of the lawsuit, in which plaintiff Bryan Barber alleges that Barris used “Plaintiff’s idea for the Original Untitled Script” and “wrote, developed and shopped the pilot episode for ‘black-ish; without Plaintiff’s knowledge or authorization.” (You can read the entire breach of contract complaint right here).
According to Barber, he and Barris were friendly back in the day, when Barris wrote a never-produced script for VH-1 based on Barber’s life. Barber alleges that Barris “hijacked” and slightly retooled the original script into the pilot fo “black-ish”.
Unlike many such lawsuits, however, this one appears to have some heft; Barber has some seriously legit entertainment industry credentials, with credits including writing and directing the 2006 Terrence Howard film “Idlewild”.
“The Original Untitled Script was premised on Plaintiff’s idea for a television show about the black experience as seen through the lens of a successful, creative and affluent black man working in the predominantly white entertainment industry,” says the 18-page complaint, which names Barris, “black-ish” exec producer Larry Wilmore, Principato-Young Entertainment and Cinema Gypsy Productions as defendants.
Among the similarities Barber points to between the original script and “black-ish” is the name and profession of the main protagonist’s wife, a doctor named “Rainbow”, shortened to “Bow” (played by Emmy-nominee Tracee Ellis Ross in the sitcom).
“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 claims.
Reps for Barris did not respond to Deadline’s requests for comment on the lawsuit.