With the series finale of Insecure behind us, fans are scrambling to find their next show to fill the void. While we wait for the next binge it’s time someone else got their flowers. For this month’s director spotlight, we’re headlining writer, director, and producer Prentice Penny. If you’re a fan of Insecure, you’re probably no stranger to Penny who’s been with the show since its beginning and also became a co-host with Issa Rae herself on the after-show, Wine Down. A Los Angeles native himself, Penny has been in the television game for a minute and shows no signs of slowing down.
His earliest credits come from the 2000s, Prentice Penny worked on several network television shows including writing on Girlfriends, and producing on Brooklyn Nine Nine, and Happy Endings.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Penny stated, “…More than half of my career has been spent in writers’ rooms with Black Women…I didn’t go to an HBCU, so “Girlfriends” felt like that for me…I would say that 80% of things I do, I learned from Mara [Brock-Akil].” It’s no surprise that Penny has had success with such a strong mentor.
Penny is also a graduate of USC’s leading screenwriting program. Moving into showrunning Insecure since 2016, and most recently Pause with Sam Jay (both on HBO Max)in 2021; when asked about how he wants Insecure to be remembered Penny said, ““We’ve got to open doors and tell our stories, unapologetically, by us and for us in a way that wasn’t trying to make it be palatable for other people. I wanted to leave the talent pool of writers, the cast, and directors better than how I found it. In terms of the mainstream culture, I hope people can see that art by people of color can also exist at a very high level without needing to be about our pain. Because when I get pitched, “This is about this so-and-so slave that went through … ” I don’t want to write that. I don’t want to get relegated to that — basketball and rap being all that Black people have to contribute to the culture.”
Penny also branched out and directed his first feature Uncorked which premiered on Netlfix in 2020. The film is beautifully crafted and follows the story of Elijah and his journey of finding a balance between his passion of becoming a master Sommelier and keeping peace with his father and his expectations of him running the family business. The film stars Mamoudou Athie, Courtney B. Vance, and Niecy Nash. It was surprising to see something as small as wine become so cinematic. It was refreshing to see this specific story told from a Black man’s perspective. I love and appreciate creative stories not only told by Black creatives but also seeing them. It’s so important to see stories like these and others that show the endless potential the world has to offer outside of cultural trauma or stereotypes.
As stated earlier, Penny shows no signs of slowing down. Already showrunning new show Pause with Sam Jay, which has been renewed for a second season, Penny is also diving into the comic book world. “Penny for your Thoughts” recently signed a deal with Disney’s Onyx Collective and is partnering with Stranger Comics founder Sebastian A. Jones. Although, no title has been revealed for this project, the two plan to uplift and discover new talent and creatives in the independent comic book world.
Penny and Jones have already begun their journey with two publications, “Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer” and “Jaycen Wise”. Penny told The Hollywood Reporter in a separate interview, “When Sebastian told me there’s so many independent comic creators of color that largely get ignored in the movie and television space, I knew that I wanted to help foster and produce content with these amazing creators,” said Penny. “I’m so excited with all the possibilities the joint venture can do. Having someone like Sebastian as a partner who has had amazing success in the independent comic space and someone like myself that knows TV and film, it felt like such an easy and natural fit. I can’t wait to dive in and find the next generation of BIPOC comic creators and get their work up on the screen.” Penny and Jones also plan to have an online mentorship component as a way to continue to inspire aspiring creatives.
With so much already accomplished, we’re definitely eager to see all that’s to come from Penny as he continues to grow and build his name within this industry.
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