Just days ahead of the Black-ish season three premiere comes word that the show’s producers and creator are being sued for allegedly stealing the premise. Deadline reports that Idlewild writer-director Bryan Barber has just filed a lawsuit against Kenya Barris for “using Plaintiff’s idea for the Original Untitled Script” in the Black-ish pilot “without Plaintiff’s knowledge or authorization.” The suit alleges that Black-ish’s premise—which follows the life of an affluent black family—was inspired by Barber’s life. The other defendants named in Barber’s complaint are Black-ish executive producer Larry Wilmore’s Wilmore Films, Cinema Gypsy Productions, and Principato-Young Entertainment.
In his complaint, Barber claims that he and Barris, who was his friend and classmate at Clark Atlana University, had worked together on a script based on the former’s life. It was never produced, and the two fell out of touch. After watching the pilot though, Barber believes Barris moved forward with the idea without his consent or knowledge. In addition to mirroring aspects of his life, Barber claims that the show also contains ideas he had for characters, including Traci Ellis Ross’ Dr. Rainbow Johnson. The suit continues: “Both works conclude with the protagonist overcoming challenges with race relations, adapting to his professional environment, and coming to terms with his ‘blackish-ness’.” Barber is seeking over $1 million in damages, as well as “creator and writer credit and compensation on the Emmy nominated Black-ish plus a piece of ‘all derivative, ancillary and merchandising rights and interests.’”
What Barber’s suit fails to mention (or recall) is that Barris is married to an anesthesiologist named Rainbow, and that, as a successful black man with humble beginnings himself, Black-ish might be informed by his own experiences. But, at the time of this writing, Barris hadn’t commented on the suit, and neither had any of the other named defendants.