EXCLUSIVE: More than two decades after Will Smith launched his acting career with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, another young rapper is transitioning to scripted comedy with the help of a husband-and-wife writing/producing duo. BET has greenlighted the Untitled Diggy Simmons Project, a two-hour backdoor comedy pilot/original movie starring 17-year-old rapper/blogger Daniel Dwayne Simmons, aka Diggy Simmons, and executive produced by Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, the team behind BET’s hit comedy The Game and upcoming original movie/backdoor pilot Being Mary Jane, which is set to premiere next year as part of the BET Premiere Cinema movie franchise. Being Mary Jane, starring Gabrielle Union, is expected to go to series.
The Diggy Simmons project, said to have an Entourage vibe to it, is described as a fresh and edgy look at Diggy Simmons, his life as a blogger, and the close group of loyal friends who hold him down on his rise to the top. Simmons will play the main character Blake. Also cast in the project are Allen Maldonado as Manny, Blake’s best friend. Manny lives with his twin sister Tae (Teyana Taylor), who is Blake’s ex-girlfriend, after their grandmother died. Chris Brew will play Dot, a tech geek, now a student at NYU, and a childhood friend of Blake and Manny. Bria Murphy will play Manny’s girlfriend Nia. Stephanie Charles will play Sheri, Dot’s ex-girlfriend.
Executive producing the movie with Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil are Kenya Baris (The Game, America’s Next Top Model), who wrote the script, Chris Lighty, Laurie Dobbins, and James Dubose. Simmons and Kevin Liles are co-executive producing. Salim Akil will also direct the film/backdoor pilot, which will shoot later this year. He also recently helmed the feature Sparkle, which was written by Brock Akil. The duo has a rich multi-project deal with BET. Diggy Simmons is a son of Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons. Along with his parents and five siblings, he starred on the MTV reality television show Run’s House. The Akils are with ICM Partners; Barris is with Principato-Young and Pradigm.
In addition to the Diggy Simmons project, BET recently greenlighted standard comedy pilot What Would Dylan Do? (working title) from writer Julian Breece and showrunner Warren Hutcherson starring Kelly Rowland as a relationship blogger.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.