Film Bio: Kenya Barris

Jan 10, 2017

Kenya Barris was born in Inglewood, Calif. After his father had a chemical accident at General Motors and a significant law suit settlement, he and his then-divorced mother moved from the ‘Hood and landed in Hancock Park.

Kenya attended several high schools in Los Angeles and upon graduation attended UCLA for his freshman year. Obsessed with becoming the next Spike Lee and tiring of life in the city, Kenya left Los Angeles for Atlanta, Ga., where he attended Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, studying under the tutelage of Spike Lee’s mentor, Dr. Henry Eichelberger. While in Atlanta, Kenya wrote and directed the one-act play “Bopping,” which was produced by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis for the Atlanta Theatrical Society. He also took to comedy at Earthquake’s Comedy Corner where he began to develop relationships with several comedians who would soon take center stage (Chris Tucker, Earthquake, Bernie Mack…).

Upon returning home to Los Angeles after graduation, Barris took a position as a writer’s assistant on the WB sitcom, “Sister /Sister”. It was there that Steve Stark took note of him and assisted him in entering the Paramount Comedy Writer’s Workshop. After leaving the program and receiving an episode on Sister/Sister, Barris was placed in the WGA Writer’s Trainee program on Fox’s, “The Keenan Ivory Wayan’s Show,” a late night talk/sketch show.

From there, Barris went on to work on several other short-run sketch shows and eventually, thanks to a feature script that was sold to Artists Production Group, he was placed with his life-long mentor, Felicia D. Henderson, on the Showtime drama series “Soul Food,” where he stayed four seasons. While on “Soul Food,” he co-created UPN’s breakout reality hit “America’s Next Top Model” with Tyra Banks. After leaving “Soul Food” he returned to his comedy roots on shows like “Listen Up,” “Like Family,” and “The Game.” He also worked as a writer on CBS’s “Listen Up,” UPN/The CW’s “Girlfriends,” and Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” and directed and executive produced a ten-part mini-documentary music series entitled “Music Love” for Warner Brothers. Additionally, he wrote and created BET’s “The Start Up” and Hulu’s first half-hour comedy series “We Got Next.”

Kenya Barris is under an overall deal at ABC Studios where he is currently the executive producer and co-showrunner on “Black-ish” for ABC. Most recently, he penned “Barbershop: The Next Cut” and is currently writing multiple features for Universal, New Line, and MGM.