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Viola Davis’ Production Company Sells Comedy From ‘Barbershop’ Writer to ABC

Viola Davis is expanding her work behind-the-camera, as she’s put a new comedy series into development with ABC, the network behind her show “How To Get Away With Murder,” Variety has learned.

Davis will executive produce the single-cam, half-hour comedy “The Zipcoders” for ABC through her production company JuVee Prods.

Hailing from “Barbershop” screenwriter Marshall Todd, “The Zipcoders,” set in 1968, is about a divorced mother of three who moves her family to the East Side of Austin, Texas, soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in an effort to be closer to her estranged sister. Once there, to the utter bewilderment of friends, family and the community at large, her teenage son forms a rock ‘n’ roll band with his group of friends who aspire to be like The Beatles.

“Zipcoders” is an original idea, which gained traction at JuVee, due to the “humorously iconic” image of a group of African-American teenagers with feathered hair and bell bottoms in the middle of the deep South. Todd became attached to the project, after he did research on the late 1960’s in America and found parallels to the issues our country is dealing with today — politically, racially and musically. He then pitched the family comedy to ABC Studios and the network.

“This project gives me the opportunity to tell a story that, while specific to the African-American experience, doesn’t travel in the usual tropes,” said Todd, who will serve as exec producer on the series, in addition to writing. “As a parent, I was inspired to tell a story from the dual perspective of parents and children in a world where the rules are constantly changing. Music has always been a passion of mine and to be able to use it to inform this particular narrative was a provocative challenge. I have found in Viola and the squad at JuVee the perfect co-conspirators dedicated to telling the types of stories that entertain while contributing to the larger cultural conversation.”

Davis will serve as an executive producer, along with her husband and producing partner Julius Tennon. The project is the second to fall under JuVee Productions’ recent overall deal with ABC Studios, which the company inked earlier this year. JuVee’s head of television, Andrew Wang, will oversee “Zipcoders.”

Wang compares “The Zipcoders” to ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish,” saying it offers “a compelling and comical take on a family dealing with rapidly changing cultural attitudes. This is a show about following your own path, and it’s a love letter to all the musical and artistic trailblazers who dared to be different, and shifted the paradigm.”

Tennon added: “‘The Zipcoders’ is near and dear to my heart. Viola and I love what Marshall Todd put on the page — the world, the characters and a fun-loving take on music, relationships, dreams and family.  Over our conference room door is etched ‘Dream Big. Dream Fierce.’ and this show really underlines that ethos.”

JuVee Productions is repped by CAA. Todd is repped by Gersh, Principato-Young, and Mark Temple.

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