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‘Black-ish’ Spinoff Starring Yara Shahidi Greenlit at Freeform

Freeform has greenlit “Black-ish’s” college-set spinoff series, starring Yara ShahidiVariety has learned.

The spinoff is titled “College-ish” and will center around Shahidi’s character Zoey Johnson, as she heads off to college and quickly discovers that not everything goes her way once she leaves the nest. The show is set to debut with a 13-episode season in early 2018.

College-ish” is described as a contemporary take on the current issues facing both students and administrators in the world of higher education. Deon Cole will co-star with Shahidi, reprising his “Black-ish” role of Charlie, who moonlights as an adjunct marketing professor. The rest of the core cast will be new characters and actors, not seen in the flagship series, both in the administration and student body who all reflect the complex and hilarious points of views on college campuses.

The spinoff was developed at ABC, which airs “Black-ish,” and aired as a planted pilot this spring. After ABC passed on the project, its sister network Freeform scooped it up. Insiders say the series was too young for ABC, which made it a perfect fit for the young-skewing cable network.

The spinoff hails from “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, who will serve as executive producer, alongside Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, and Brian Dobbins. Barris wrote the back-door split with Larry Wilmore. ABC Studios, where Barris is under a rich overall deal, is producing.

“Our goal at Freeform is to celebrate the power, possibility, and inclusivity of youth culture through our shows,” Freeform’s EVP of programming and development, Karey Burke, said. “Kenya Barris blazes new trails in the funniest way possible with ‘College-ish’ and we can’t wait to get schooled by the incredibly talented Yara Shahidi, who is the perfect addition to our Freeform family.”

Barris commented, “I never thought they’d let me put ‘Black-ish’ on the air, let alone give me a spinoff. I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to continue working with Yara and the rest of this talented young cast. To any aspiring writers struggling to make it out there, I highly advise adding an ‘–ish’ to any working title you might have. It seems to be the move.”

There’s no word yet from ABC on how exactly Shahidi and Cole’s transition from “Black-ish” to “College-ish” will work, but Barris had suggested in the past that the ABC series would feature a college storyline in its fourth season, which would seamlessly shift Shahidi to her new show. “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross recently spoke to Variety, saying she was thrilled about the prospect of a spinoff, but has not had explicit conversations on how she, Anderson, and the other “Black-ish” characters may appear on “College-ish” and vice versa. With a laugh, she suggested that she would be making guest appearances on the spinoff when it was set up at ABC, saying, “We’re still going to be her parents!”

Freeform grabbing the ABC Studios series is a perfect display of Disney/ABC’s corporate synergy, with the company beefing up cross-network events lately. This summer, Disney Channel movie “Descendants 2” will debut across five networks in the portfolio. And in the fall, “Marvel’s Inhumans” will debut on ABC, along with a global Imax preview.

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