Lee Daniels inks overall deal with 20th Television

The award-winning producer said he has "so many exciting projects in the works from some of today’s most fresh and distinct voices."

Lee Daniels has renewed his overall deal with 20th Television which was set to explore in June. 

The Oscar-winning filmmaker/producer first joined forces with the Disney-backed studio in 2015 when he co-created the hit Fox drama series Empire.

“I’m beyond grateful to continue my partnership with 20th, Dana Walden, Karey Burke and their amazing team, all of whom have wholeheartedly supported my vision over the past seven years,” Daniels said, as reported by THR. “[Lee Daniels Entertainment] has so many exciting projects in the works from some of today’s most fresh and distinct voices that I cannot wait to share with the world.”

Read More: Y’lan Noel grabs lead role in Lee Daniels’ ‘The Spook Who Sat By The Door’

Daniels and the studio are currently cooking up the Fox drama Our Kind of People; the FX pilot The Spook Who Sat by the Door, based on the novel of the same name; a series reboot of Waiting to Exhale at ABC and a reboot of The Wonder Year with an all-Black cast.

Lee Daniels thegrio.com
(Credit: Getty Images)

As reported by theGrio, the original Wonder Years series that ran from 1986-1993 starred Fred Savage as Kevin Arnold, an angsty, middle-class adolescent growing up in the suburbs in the 1960s. It earned a Peabody Award and an Emmy for Best Comedy after its first season. Savage is set to executive produce the series as well as direct the pilot.

The new Wonder Years series stars Don Cheadle who will narrate the series as adult Dean Williams, Elisha “EJ” Williams as Dean Williams, Saycon Sengbloh as Lillian Williams, Laura Kariuki as Kim Williams, and Dulé Hill as Bill Williams, per Shadow and Act.

“Lee Daniels is a master storyteller and a beloved partner to all of us at 20th Television,” said Dana Walden, chairman of entertainment for Walt Disney Television. “He leaves an indelible mark on every project he touches. His relentless pursuit of authenticity is only matched by his deep respect for talent, and it’s no wonder that the greatest actors seize the opportunity to work with him. Karey and I look forward to continuing our relationship with Lee and collaborating on many more extraordinary stories ahead.”

Meanwhile, actor Y’lan Noel, best known for playing Daniel on HBO’s Insecure, has grabbed a lead role in the pilot for Daniels‘ The Spook Who Sat By The Door.

Read More: ABC drops teaser trailers for ‘Wonder Years’ reboot, ‘Queens’


The forthcoming drama pilot is written by Leigh Dana Jackson and will be directed by Gerard McMurray, theGRIO reported. Noel will play Dan Freeman in the series, the only Black CIA operative in government. Freeman is described as, “a patriot, a Vietnam vet, and secretly, a Black Revolutionary.”

The series is said to highlight “structural racism in the U.S.” Jackson will serve as showrunner on the series and will executive produce with Daniels, McMurray, and Marc Velez. This is not the first adaptation of Sam Greenlee‘s 1969 novel. The book was adapted into a feature film back in 1973 with Lawrence Cook as Dan Freeman.

Daniels certainly seems excited that Noel has joined this project. He wrote in a tweet, “Welcome aboard Y’lan Noel #spookwhosatbythedoor.”

Noel has also signed on for a thriller from the mind of Mo McRae. Set to be McRae’s directorial debut, A Lot of Nothing follows, “a couple living in a Los Angeles suburb who are compelled to take dangerous actions when they discover their next-door neighbor is the police officer that just murdered an unarmed motorist.”

theGRIO’s Keydra Manns and Jared Alexander contributed to this report. 

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