Onyx Collective came armed with news during its presentation Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival.
Disney’s Tara Duncan-led quasi studio has put a Queen of Sheba scripted drama series in development. Onyx, which produces content exclusively for Hulu, has also nabbed two documentaries out of the snowy fest: Questlove’s untitled Sly Stone feature and Ryan Coogler’s Anthem.
Sheba, which is also exec produced by Coogler, is co-created by Chantelle Wells (Showtime’s Yellowjackets) and actress-writer-producer Azie Tesfai (Supergirl). The drama explores the rise to power of the first queen on the continent of Africa as she seeks to unite the nation now known as Ethiopia, making it one of the richest, most formidable kingdoms in the world. Inspired by true events, the potential series follows Makeda into a world of danger, deceit and political intrigue as she is forced to step into a role that no one, including her, ever imagined as the Queen of Sheba.
Wells and Tesfai — the latter of whom grew up in Ethiopia — co-created Sheba and exec produce alongside Coogler and his Proximity Media’s Kalia King, Sev Ohanian and Zinzi Coogler. Wells will write the script. It’s unclear if Tesfai, who is the first Ethiopian person to ever portray a comic book superhero on screen in The CW’s Supergirl, will have an on-screen part in addition to her role as exec producer. Tesfai, who is also writing The Chase for NBC, came up with the idea and brought it to Proximity with Wells then recruited to pen the script. Sheba is the first scripted series to stem from the Black Panther alum’s overall deal with Onyx, the collective that focuses on stories of underrepresented communities.
In addition to Sheba, Coogler and Proximity are also exec producing documentary feature Anthem, which follows composer Kris Bowers (Bridgerton) and Grammy-winning music producer Dahi (Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Drake) as they travel across America to create a new sound, inspired by what our country’s national anthem might be if written in today’s time. Proximity’s Zinzi Coogler, Ohanian and This Machine’s R.J. Cutler and Elise Pearlstein exec produce. Proximity’s Peter Nicks, who also directs, Coogler, Kris Bowers, Sean Havey and Chris L. Jenkins produce.
Lastly, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Onyx doc Summer of Soul examines the life and legacy of Sly and the Family Stone, the groundbreaking band led by Sly Stone. It tells the story behind the rise, reign and fadeout of one of pop music’s most influential artists and tells a very human story about the cost of genius. Questlove directs the doc, which is penned by Joseph Patel and Jeff Mao. The project is the first to stem from the new overall deal that Summer of Soul’s Patel has signed with Onyx. Brian Gersh, Sylvester Stone, Questlove, Shawn Gee, Zarah Zohlman, Lonnie Rashid Lynn (aka Common), Derek Dudley, Shelby Stone, Ron Weisner and Paul Gertz exec produce. Patel and Derik Murray produce. The project hails from MRC Network Entertainment Inc., Two One Five Entertainment Inc., Stardust Films and ID8 Multimedia Inc. in association with Sony Music Entertainment.
Onyx, which was launched in early 2021 and is fronted by Freeform president Duncan, is the Disney-based brand that counts scripted efforts including The Hair Tales, Reasonable Doubt, Mahershala Ali’s The Plot and Unprisoned, all for Hulu. In addition to Coogler, the studio counts overall deals with the likes of Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi), Prentice Penny (Insecure), Natasha Rothwell and Yara Shahidi (Grown-ish), among others.