Audible today announced a multi-project development deal with Hillman Grad Productions, the production company founded by Emmy-award winning writer and creator Lena Waithe, and Rishi Rajani.
The first original project under the deal has already been greenlit and is underway. Currently in active development, Kym is an original, scripted comedy series inspired by the life of Emmy-nominated actress/comedian Kym Whitley. The series follows Kym as she navigates single motherhood and Hollywood. Whitley is set to executive produce under her Kwick Whit Productions banner and star, with Mark Brown directing. The series is also produced by Andrew Coles of The Mission, Debra Martin Chase of Martin Chase, and Skydance, alongside Hillman Grad Productions.
“We’re so excited to be expanding into the podcast space in collaboration with Audible and continuing our mission to tell human stories,” said Waithe and Rajani on behalf of Hillman Grad Productions. “We are really grateful to Kym for sharing not only her story but her signature voice with us. Kym Whitley has always been one of the funniest women in the business, and we’re so glad she's finally going to take center stage!”
“Lena is a supremely gifted storyteller with a proven ability to capture the human experience in all its complexity through her work. Along with her company, Hillman Grad Productions, she elevates diverse voices and creates art that challenges convention,” said Zola Mashariki, Head of Audible Studios. “I’ve had the privilege of working with Lena in both TV and film and am absolutely ecstatic to collaborate with her again as she makes her mark on the audio industry. Lena’s creative voice is authentic, accessible, and powerfully potent, and we at Audible are thrilled to help bring her audio stories to life.”
Hillman Grad projects will join a robust roster of best-in-class Audible Originals. Recent releases include the unscripted podcast My Body, My Podcast from Elizabeth Banks, which explores the female experience; Force of Beauty, the story of three generations of Black women, one extraordinary friendship, and the rich history of the city that made them; Billie Was a Black Woman, a four-part podcast series that refracts Black womanhood through the prism of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday; Beginner’s Mind, a musical journey with virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma that encourages self-discovery and reflects our deeply interwoven humanity; and many more.
This deal follows Audible’s recently announced production and development deals with leading creatives such as Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit, Laura Dern’s Jaywalker Pictures, Kenya Barris’ Khalabo Ink Society, Topic Studios, Treefort Media, Team Coco, Steph Curry’s Unanimous Media, Kevin Hart’s HartBeat Productions, Charlamagne tha God’s CTHAGOD World Productions, and The SpringHill Company, founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter.
Hillman Grad Productions’ output also includes The Chi for Showtime, BET's hit series Twenties and Them for Amazon Studios, and they are in development on BET+ Birth of Cool and Twenties the After Show hosted by B. Scott.
Waithe is represented by Blue Marble Management, WME, Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein & Lezcano, and ID. Whitley is represented by ICM, Untitled Entertainment and Fox Rothschild LLP.
ABOUT HILLMAN GRAD PRODUCTIONS
Hillman Grad was founded by actor, producer and Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani to create art that redefines the status quo by amplifying and celebrating the stories and voices of diverse, historically marginalized communities across all industries.
Hillman Grad Productions, their development and production arm, is home to the producers behind award-winning films like The Forty-Year-Old Version and Queen & Slim, with upcoming projects set at Netflix, BET, Disney, Amazon, Universal, Focus and MGM, including A.V. Rockwell’s feature debut A Thousand And One starring Teyana Taylor, the Disney Studios’ high school basketball movie Chang Can Dunk for Disney+, a Sammy Davis, Jr. biopic, based on his daughter Tracey Davis’ book, Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father, and Being Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Documentary, directed by James Adolphus and set to premiere in 2022. For television, they executive produced The Chi for Showtime, BET's hit series Twenties and the Amazon original series Them, as well as upcoming series Birth of Cool and Twenties the After Show hosted by B. Scott for BET+, both currently in production.
The company has expanded to include the recently formed Hillman Grad Records with Def Jam Recordings, and partnered with independent book publishing company Zando. As one of Zando’s first founding publishing partners, Hillman Grad will acquire and publish four to six books over a three-year period, including memoirs, young adult titles and literary fiction.
Hillman Grad also launched three groundbreaking, inclusivity-focused initiatives over the past year: The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab, offering opportunities for marginalized storytellers to connect, grow and accelerate their careers in television and film through personalized instruction from industry professionals in writing, screen acting and executive development; the Rising Voices Initiative in partnership with Indeed, which allowed ten BIPOC filmmakers to create short films with a production budget of $100,000 each; and the Defining Moments initiative in partnership with ID, a paid apprenticeship led by ID's team of experts, designed for candidates interested in a career in publicity who previously may not have had the industry connections or access to college classes usually required for entry-level programs.