- Kenya Barris is developing a 10-part series on Richard Pryor that was originally planned as a movie.
- Barris views Pryor as a major influence on future comedians and a comedy icon.
- The expanded series format will allow for a deeper exploration of Pryor’s life and impact on comedy.
Kenya Barris has revealed that his biopic of legendary comedian Richard Pryor is moving from a film to a 10-part series. In 2020, Barris was set to write, direct, and produce the project for MGM, but the plans have since changed, potentially due to Amazon’s acquisition of MGM Studios in 2022.
In an interview with Variety, Barris noted that he is currently “in the room” with development on the series, which is likely to find a home on Prime Video. Discussing the series, Barris said:
“It’s a 10-part limited biographical series that takes a look from cradle to grave. From his earliest upbringing…and became, at one point, the biggest star in the world.”
Turning the biopic into a series will likely result in a more comprehensive portrayal of Pryor’s life. Barris is clearly passionate about the project as he views Pryor as his “comedy god” and said, “It is my baby. I love it… I think telling his story and letting people see things that they didn’t know about him is something that I’m super excited to bring to life.”
When the Richard Pryor biopic was first announced, it was the subject of intense competition before MGM secured the rights. Now that the project is being expanded into a series, Barris’ enthusiasm is evident. He said in a statement:
“The way Pryor did what he did, with truth and specificity that was somehow self-aware and self-deprecating, and said with an unmatched level of vulnerability, that was the power and impact of his work. Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created. To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.”
Richard Pryor is widely regarded as one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time, with his work continuing to influence comedians long after his death in 2005. He was the first recipient of the annual Mark Twain Humor Prize, and his film credits include Superman III, Silver Streak, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Brewster’s Millions. Jennifer Lee Pryor, Richard’s widow, said, “Having had a front row seat to much of Richard’s life, I am excited that the mystery of his genius is finally going to be explored and Kenya Barris is the perfect person to do it. Richard and Kenya are creative brothers.”
Barris is best known for creating the hit series Black-Ish and its spin-off Grown-Ish. He has also written for films such as The Witches and Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America. Michael De Luca, MGM Film Group Chairman, and Pamela Abdy, MGM Film Group President, released a joint statement saying, “We couldn’t agree more. Along with our partners Kenya, Tory, Jennifer, and Adam, we are incredibly excited to share Richard’s extraordinary life with audiences the world over.”
There have been previous attempts to produce a Richard Pryor biopic, with one earlier version potentially starring Mike Epps as Pryor. No casting details have been announced for Barris’ version, and it remains unclear when production will begin.