×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Will Packer Has Big ‘Ambitions’ for the Small Screen

Will Packer made his reputation with such movies as “Girls Trip” but he’s moved into TV.

“We are content creators and I don’t want to be limited to one particular medium,” says Packer of his recent efforts in television.

LeVar Burton, an executive producer on History’s 2016 “Roots,” says he was impressed when he first met Packer, who also came aboard the miniseries as an executive producer.

“Will’s genuine expertise is his finger is on the pulse of the people,” Burton says. “Without question, community outreach was a critical part of our strategy of engagement, of finding an audience, of delivering an audience to the miniseries and Will’s knowledge and expertise and contacts in that regard were enormously valuable.”

Barry Jossen, executive vice president of A&E Studios, which produced the “Roots” remake, says Packer brought a voice of authenticity to the project. Jossen also recalls it was Packer who suggested rapper T.I. for the role of Cyrus, which would be a contrast to Chicken George (Rege-Jean Page).

“We needed someone quick-witted and instinctual and we had a tough time figuring out who embodied that role,” Jossen says. “Will successfully recruited T.I. for that very important character.”

Packer’s earliest forays into TV included executive producing the short-lived comedies “Truth Be Told” (2015, NBC) and “Uncle Buck” (2016, ABC) before founding Will Packer Media in 2017.

“It is unheard of that your first two projects that you bring out when you’re first going into television are bought, made into pilots and picked up to go on air,” Packer says. “It taught me how the television medium works, how the network television process works, and we didn’t stop, of course.
That’s not me. I won’t stop.”

Packer describes his next scripted effort, the soapy “Ambitions,” as “powerful people behaving badly.” It stars Robin Givens and debuts in June on OWN.

“It watches like you want a glass of wine and popcorn in front of you,” says OWN president Tina Perry. “There’s subtle little comedy in a smirk and giggle way that I don’t think that you get watching ‘Greenleaf.’”

Sheila Ducksworth, head of scripted television at Will Packer Media, says a new scripted half-hour, single-camera comedy, “Bigger,” about five thirtysomethings in Atlanta, begins production in April for the Viacom family of platforms, specifically BET. And production is under way on season two of drama “The Baxters,” produced with Roma Downey’s Lightworkers Media and based on a book series by Karen Kingsbury. No distributor has been announced for seasons one and two of “The Baxters.”

“To give you an idea of the bigness of Will Packer [in] television, over a seven-month period we will have produced just under 50 episodes of television,” Ducksworth says, noting the company also has projects on deck at Bravo, HBO and FX.

Kelly Smith heads up Packer’s unscripted projects that vary widely in type and tone.

“[Will’s] brand is so in the feature world and from a comedic standpoint that whenever he and I started talking about projects even I said, ‘I’m not sure this one particular show would be on brand,’ and he said, ‘My brand is good content,’” Smith says. “It’s not like we only do relationship shows or only crime documentaries.”

Shaq Does Shark Week,” a 2018 special for Discovery Channel, became one of the Top 10 highest-rated “Shark Week” telecasts ever in multiple demos.

Last month Investigation Discovery premiered Will Packer Media’s “The Atlanta Child Murders,” about 29 unsolved killings from 1979 to 1981.

“We were just trying to do our version of the story, give some voice to the victims and their families that had not happened in this kind of a way,” says Packer, who lives in Atlanta. “And give some national attention and lift to this story.”

Then there’s OWN’s dating show for black singles in their 30s and 40s, “Ready to Love,” which debuted in late 2018 and has begun casting for season two, which OWN recently ordered, along with “Love & Marriage: Huntsville.”

“I do not believe there has been casting of African-Americans as wide and as broad and as reflective of the community from a male and female perspective,” says OWN’s Perry. “It wasn’t just hair and skin color and shape, it was what people do for a living, education levels. That’s one thing Will brought, wanting to diversify the presentation of our community.”

More TV

  • Shefali Shah in Delhi Crime

    'Delhi Crime’ Wins big at Asian Academy Creative Awards

    Richie Mehta’s harrowing Netflix series “Delhi Crime” was the big winner at the 2nd annual Asian Academy Creative Awards in Singapore on Friday. Representing the show, lead actress Shefali Shah was rushed off her feet as she repeatedly had to return to the stage. “Delhi Crime” earned her best actress in a leading role, best [...]

  • KARNAWAL

    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • Robert Walker Jr.

    'Star Trek' Actor Robert Walker Jr. Dies at 79

    Robert Walker Jr., son of actors Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones, died Thursday, his family confirmed to the official website for the television show “Star Trek.” He was 79. Walker Jr. is best remembered for playing the titular Charlie Evans in the “Star Trek” episode “Charlie X” from the show’s first season in 1966. His [...]

  • Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, right,

    TV Ratings: Why Is the NBA Shooting Air Balls?

    The NBA’s TV ratings so far this season have been far from all-star level. Viewership across ESPN, TNT and NBA TV is down 15% year-to-year overall, according to Nielsen figures. TNT’s coverage is averaging 1.3 million viewers through 14 telecasts, down 21% versus last year’s comparable coverage, while on ESPN the picture isn’t much prettier. The [...]

  • Claire Danes, Homeland

    TV News Roundup: Showtime Releases 'Homeland' Final Season Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, Showtime drops the trailer for the final season of “Homeland,” and National Geographic reveals the first look at Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in “Genius: Aretha.” FIRST LOOKS Showtime released the trailer for the final season of “Homeland,“ premiering Feb. 9. The eighth and final season, starring Claire Danes and [...]

  • 700700 + Ted Turner Dedication. December

    Ted Turner Tributes Established With WarnerMedia Gift to University of Georgia

    WarnerMedia has established a scholarship, internship program and exhibition hall at the University of Georgia to be named after maverick media mogul Ted Turner. The company has gifted $550,000 to the university to create the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund, for students attending the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is also the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content