Friday, December 3, 2021

Barack and Michelle Obama Tap Denzel Washington for Netflix Deal

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of their official portraits during a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.
(Source: Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America)

*In their new roles as content creators and producers for Netflix, Barack and Michelle Obama have secured the rights to Denzel Washington’s film adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

That deal was inked after Obama “happened to be in [Netflix CEO Ted] Sarandos’ offices” when Washington came in for a meeting, per Daily Mail. Denzel has refused to star in the production, which is part of  an ongoing deal between the streamer and the Obama’s production company, Higher Ground.

Obama was also trying to secure Will Smith’s “King Richard” — about the father of Serena and Venus Williams — for Netflix, but Warner Bros. won out at the end.

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Denzel Washington speaks onstage at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Denzel Washington at Dolby Theatre on June 06, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Erik Voake/Getty Images for WarnerMedia) 610530
(Source: Getty Images North America)

Higher Ground will focus on stories that reflect a range of “interests and experiences” but are “relevant to our daily lives,” Michelle Obama said.

Higher Grounds and Netflix will also deliver “American Factory” — a documentary about a Chinese billionaire who opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant in Ohio — set to debut on Netflix on Aug. 21. Another doc, “Crip Camp,” follows a group of disabled teens at a New York camp, and is expected to bow next year. The company has  also announced an anthology series inspired by the New York Times column “Overlooked,” as well as a 30-minute children’s series about food titled “Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parent.”

“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Michelle added. “We think there’s something here for everyone—moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life—and the conversations they’ll generate.”

According to a press release, Higher Ground Productions is “A storytelling partnership between President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Netflix, Higher Ground Productions is home to a wide range of scripted, unscripted and documentary-style series, as well as feature-length narrative and documentary films. Higher Ground shines a light on timely and timeless subjects by empowering new and diverse voices to create content that speaks to our world today.”

You can learn more about the projects at the streaming service’s website.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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