Actor/director/playwright Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) grew up in West Philly and set his award-winning play Dot here.
Now the affectionate drama by the Temple alum about a family grappling with its matriarch’s memory loss from Alzheimer’s will be a TV series called West Philly, Baby on AMC Networks’ streaming service ALLBLK, the service announced Thursday.
Written, directed, and produced by Domingo, the series “is straight from my heart,” Domingo said in the announcement. “It is a love letter to Black families and communities. It is about our collective memory and our hope for where we are going in the future. It holds many generations, genders, sexualities, races, and beliefs. It holds plenty of dark humor, which is the key to everyone’s survival in my world.”
Set to begin production in early 2022, the series’ first season will be broken down into six half-hour episodes. And while the story is set in Philadelphia, AMC has not indicated whether it will be filmed locally. Greater Philadelphia Film Office executive director Sharon Pinkenson wasn’t able to say, either.
Domingo will appear on the big screen this summer in the supernatural slasher flick Candyman, which is co-written by Get Out director Jordan Peele and set for an August release.
Written in 2015, Dot premiered the following year with the Actors Theatre of Louisville and then played off Broadway. Domingo brought it to Philadelphia in 2019 for a run at People’s Light — the actor’s first time directing his own work on a major stage.
“All my plays are Philadelphia-based plays,” he told The Inquirer at the time. “I liken myself to Athol Fugard or August Wilson, who stick with one community: There’s always a story there. Philadelphia has such complex and colorful characters I’d love to see interact with each other.”
The play “raises questions about Alzheimer’s and family and the dark comedy that goes with it,” he said.
Domingo’s other work includes the plays Lights Out: Nat King Cole (which had a run at People’s Light in 2017 starring Dulé Hill) and A Boy and His Soul, and the book for Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.
His West Philly connections include former Overbrook schoolmate Will Smith. “We had gym class and science together,” he told The Inquirer in 2019.
West Philly, Baby, is among the first projects from Domingo’s production company, Edith Productions, under his first-look deal with AMC Studios. (He told The Inquirer the company is named after his mother.) He had previously worked with AMC on his digital series Bottomless Brunch at Colman’s.
“We’ve had a long and very distinctive and successful partnership with Colman, going all the way back to Victor Strand and the first season of Fear the Walking Dead,” Dan McDermott, president of original programming for AMC Networks and AMC Studios, said in the series announcement adding that AMC is “thrilled” to bring “West Philly, Baby” to the screen.
“As a fan of Colman’s dating back to his early work with Spike Lee [in Passing Strange], the dynamic he has brought to so many impactful pieces over the years has been a true pleasure to watch,” said WEtv and ALLBLK general manager Brett Dismuke. “Audiences will be in for a real treat with West Philly, Baby.”