*Kenny Smith – recently back as co-showrunner on ABC’s “Black-ish” in the wake of series creator Kenya Barris’ exit from his ABC Studios overall deal – has just signed his own three-year overall deal with the studio, according to Deadline.
Under the pact, Smith, who had served as co-executive producer on the show’s third season, will be co-showrunner/executive producer alongside Jonathan Groff. The deal also calls on Smith to develop new projects for both ABC Studios and ABC Signature Studios.
Barris, who has a lucrative overall deal pending at Netflix, had co-run “Black-ish” with Groff for the last three-and-a-half seasons.
“We’re thrilled to sign Kenny to an overall deal at ABC Studios,” said Patrick Moran, President, ABC Studios. “Not only is he returning to the black-ish fold for season 5, but we’ll now have the opportunity to develop projects with him across all platforms.”
Smith, who was most recently co-executive producer on NBC/Universal TV’s summer series, “Marlon,” spoke with Deadline at ABC’s TCA party about plans for next season.
“We have some big episodes coming up — the premiere, in which we will be dealing with Junior’s gap year. We have the 100th episode coming. We will have the same fun we have always had and also some meaty topics to hit, we are dealing with race and the black family,” Smith said, hinting that “the second episode will jump back into that with something meaty and topical.”
The show also will focus more on the twins, Miles and Marsai. “We’d never had that, 13-14 year-olds on the show. Now we are dealing with middle school issues, which generates new stories,” Smith said. (The Johnsons’ older children, Junior and Zoey, were already in high school when the series started.)
If everything goes well, “the show could probably go for the next 10 years because we try to deal with issues that families in general deal with, black American families and also stories that any families can relate to,” Smith said.
He noted that Barris is still involved, reads scripts for the new season and gives his blessing. Smith and Barris previously worked together for years on “The Game” in addition to the third season of “Black-ish,” so “we have a shorthand,” Smith said.
As for recent allegations against black-ish star Anthony Anderson, “all we know is what has been in the media,” Smith said. “We are working hard on the new season.”