Pioneer director Neema Barnette (Queen Sugar, Being Mary Jane) has joined Vh1’s upcoming series The Breaks. Inspired by Dan Charnas’ book on the hip-hop business The Big Payback, the series follows three friends through their come-up in the hip-hop industry in New York City in 1990.
The original TV film aired on VH1 in January and starred Mack Wilds, Wood Harris and Afton Williamson, who will all return to the series. Emmy-nominated actress Gloria Reuben and Teyana Taylor have joined the cast for the series. Charnas, Seith Mann (Walking Dead), John J. Strauss, Bill Flanagan and Darren Goldberg will serve as executive producers.
Barnette is currently a member of Ava DuVernay’s all female directorial team for OWN’s Queen Sugar. She directed two episodes of the series and served as a mentor to the other directors on the team as they transitioned into television. Barnette is celebrated for making history as the first African American Woman to direct a major network TV sitcom (for an episode of ‘What’s Happenin Now’) and was the first African American woman to receive a major studio deal (via Columbia Pictures, which is now a part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment). As the recipient of an Emmy, an NAACP Image Award, the Women in Radio & TV Award, the Lilly Award, the Peabody Award, and more, Barnette is one of the leaders in our industry, and has demonstrated through her work that anything is possible when you have passion, vision, persistence, and a fierce work ethic.
“There aren’t enough women directing in our business. Even though the statistics are low, we still have to keep moving them up. It is not true that women can’t fulfill their dreams of becoming filmmakers, and share their voices cinematically.” – Neema Barnette
Throughout the years, Barnette has engaged audiences with politically and socially compelling content that defies the stereotypes of how African Americans have been depicted in film and television. Over the past few decades, she has accumulated an immense body of episodic work that ranges from classics such as The Cosby Show and A Different World to the current ground breaking series Being Mary Jane, and has directed classic films such as Civil Brand and Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day.
Barnette owns her own production company, Hope Entertainment, and has served as a professor at USC, UCLA, and AFI. She also has an ongoing web series with her husband called ‘Black History Mini Docs’ which are 90 second docs about black history.
The Breaks is slated to premiere in January 2017.