Beverly Hills, CALIFORNIA — “I don’t have anything to share with you today.”
That was the most common refrain from Netflix vice president of original series Cindy Holland as TV critics and journalists grilled her about some of the biggest names the streaming service recently wooed, including the Obamas and black-ish creator Kenya Barris.
With respect to Barack and Michelle Obama, who signed a deal in May to produce shows and deals for Netflix, Holland said it is too early in the deal to have an update on what their content might look like. When the deal was announced, it was vaguely teased that the former president and first lady would produce “scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries and features” centering around issues that were important to them in office. No financial terms are known, though, for context, a deal with Ryan Murphy made in February was estimated to be worth $250-300 million.
Two days before Holland faced the press, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Barris negotiated an exit from ABC Studios to join the Obamas, Murphy, Shonda Rhimes, and a growing number of marquee creators at Netflix, speculating that the deal could be worth nine figures. Holland had no further details on the deal or its existence.
While there weren’t updates on the Obamas and Barris, there was an exhausting list of creators and controversies—including Aziz Ansari, Insatiable, and Jeffrey Tambor—to address, to varying degrees of specificity.
Holland spotlighted the diversity of upcoming projects, including Top Boy from Drake and Future, Raising Dion from Michael B. Jordan, Turn Up Charlie from Idris Elba, and Central Park Five from Ava DuVernay. She also announced for the first time a series executive produced by and starring Octavia Spencer called Madam C.J. Walker about America’s first black female millionaire. LeBron James will also serve as an executive producer.
Asked about whether Netflix would make a third season of Master of None after star-creator-writer Aziz Ansari was the subject of a controversial sexual misconduct accusation, Holland said, “We certainly have given some thought to it. We would be happy to make another season of Master of None when Aziz is ready.”
A related question was asked about whether the service reacted with new set policies after 15-year-old Stranger Things star Sadie Sink spoke about being “stressed out” after being told she would have to kiss an actor in a scene: “Our first priority is to make sure that every set is safe and happy and healthy for everybody involved. Certainly the events of the past year created more heightened awareness around any protection issue we might have.”
On whether there would be a sixth season of Arrested Development and whether Jeffrey Tambor, who was fired from Amazon’s Transparent would be a part of it, she said, “I actually don’t know if that’s a possibility or not. We haven’t discussed it at all.”
As for House of Cards, which will end with its upcoming sixth season, sans Kevin Spacey, there still is no release date, but Holland did say she’s really proud of the show and considers the season to be a fitting end.
More interesting was the response to the backlash against the upcoming comedy Insatiable following the release of the series’ trailer. The show centers around a high school girl, played by actress Debby Ryan in a fat suit, who is bullied for being overweight. After she drops an impressive amount of weight and re-emerges in her school halls skinny and “hot,” she embarks on a revenge mission against all those tortured her while she was fat.
A petition for Netflix to cancel the series over what appeared from the trailer to be themes of fat-shaming gathered over 200,00 signatures. The show’s creator, Lauren Gussis, and its stars defended the show and said that accusations that it fat-shames are unfounded. “As someone who cares deeply about the way our bodies, especially women’s, are shamed and policed in society, I was so excited to work on Insatiable because it’s a show that addresses and confronts those ideas through satire. Satire is a way to poke fun at the hardest things, bring darkness into the light, and enter difficult conversations,” Ryan wrote on Twitter.
Asked about the controversy, Holland said, “What I do know is that Lauren Gussis, who is the creator, felt very strongly about exploring these issues based on her own experiences, but in a satirical, over-the-top way. Ultimately, the message of the show that is most important is that you feel comfortable within yourself. Fat-shaming itself, that criticism is embedded within the DNA of the show.”
All of the talk about the show being judged without anyone seeing the full product is frustrating, as one critic pointed out, because there is an embargo on publishing reviews of the series until two days before its August 10 premiere. That means we can’t speak to whether the anger is misguided, and only report on the controversy, a frustration that Holland didn’t comment on.
There was interesting talk about Netflix’s “taste communities,” which the service uses in place of demographics to determine what shows are doing well, whether they should be renewed, and even whether to green-light a prospective series. On that subject, and in line with the frustrating theme “nothing to share yet” that pervaded the session, GLOW still hasn’t been renewed for a third season. Get on that, Netflix!