“For me, and for lots of people, the world modified with Trayvon Martin,” says Tara Duncan. “I turned much more considerate about why I used to be on this job, and what energy I’ve as a programmer and a gatekeeper.”
As president of Disney’s Gen Z–going through cable community, Freeform—in addition to Disney’s model devoted to BIPOC-focused content material, Onyx Collective—Duncan stands in entrance of a few critically spectacular gates. Onyx’s first official title, Summer season of Soul, established the model’s bona fides quick when it gained the Oscar for greatest documentary in March. First-time director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s emotional acceptance speech was additionally a much-needed antidote to the unpleasantness that instantly preceded it, specifically Will Smith’s storming of the stage. “For Ahmir to acknowledge Onyx, which didn’t exist a yr in the past—to have our names referred to as out on that Oscar stage—was such a particular second,” she says.
Duncan began working Freeform two years in the past and rapidly launched its first sensation, the soapy and addictive Merciless Summer season. Disney chairman of tv leisure Dana Walden added Onyx to the exec’s portfolio in very quick order. “Each side of Tara’s mind work equally laborious—as a businessperson wanting on the huge image and managing a big finances, after which additionally as a inventive government,” Walden says. Duncan, she provides, is particularly canny in terms of selecting tasks.
Duncan grew up within the desert within the Inland Empire, about two hours east of Los Angeles. “I’m form of all or nothing,” she says of her work ethic. “I’d go laborious for a number of months, after which I’ll have every week the place you’ll be able to’t discover me. I’m within the wind.” She snagged an internship at ABC early on, then moved between networks. It was the tight-knit crew at AMC, she says, that she’s been working to duplicate ever since. In 2014, Duncan landed at Netflix as one of many streamer’s first inventive executives however walked away 4 years later, as a result of she wanted a few of that point within the wind. As a substitute of diving into a brand new gig, she traveled the world for greater than a yr and not using a plan. “The factor I spotted on my day off is that I’m an innately curious individual,” she says. “I’ve a variety of hobbies. I used to be taking banjo classes a number of years in the past. I actually need to return to the banjo.”
Her objective at Onyx isn’t flooding the world with content material however fairly establishing a house for premium, culturally particular content material. “We need to be a mirrored image of the tradition as we see it, but in addition transfer tradition,” she says. The upcoming slate speaks volumes about that mission. Within the coming months, Onyx will launch The Hair Tales, government produced by and that includes Tracee Ellis Ross and Oprah Winfrey; Unprisoned, starring Delroy Lindo and Kerry Washington; and The Plot, government produced by and starring Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. “You need to really feel like what you’re doing is making an impression,” Duncan says. “This actually seems like a possibility to do one thing that’s going to be lasting and significant. And you’ll say, ‘I constructed that.’ ”
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