Issa Rae to Produce HBO Documentary on History of Black Television

Issa Rae has found her latest project at HBO.

The “Insecure” creator and star is set to executive produce a two-part documentary called “Seen & Heard” on the history of Black television from the perspective of those who wrote, produced, created and starred in series of the past and present. 

“Who Killed Malcolm X?’ helmer Phil Bertelsen is on board to direct the doc which will feature interviews with actors, showrunners, writers, and celebrities sharing their experiences of watching African Americans represented on TV and succeeding in their own creative endeavors. The doc will also incorporate archival material and verité-driven segments.

“Black people have such a rich, but often unacknowledged history in Hollywood,” said Rae. “We have defined American culture and influenced generations time and time again across the globe. I’m honored to pair with Ark Media to center and celebrate the achievements of those who paved a way for so many of us to tell our stories on television.”

Other executive producers on the project include Montrel McKay of Issa Rae Productions, Jonathan Berry and David Becky from 3 Arts Entertainment, and Rachel Dretzin and Esther Dere from Ark Media.

The doc was announced along with several other projects as part of HBO’s summer press tour.

Also unveiled was a docuseries from Mark and Jay Duplass called “The Lady and The Dale,” exploring an audacious 1970s auto scam centered around a mysterious entrepreneur. 

This represents the latest collaboration between HBO and the Duplass brothers, who created the anthology series “Room 104” for the network. The series traces the story of Elizabeth Carmichael, who rose to prominence when she released a fuel-efficient three-wheeled vehicle during the 1970s gas crisis. It is expected to air in 2021.

“We are excited to be collaborating yet again with HBO in the docu-series space, and for the chance to bring the complex story of Liz Carmichael and her three-wheeled car to life,” said Mark and Jay Duplass.

Additionally, HBO confirmed its substantial documentary slate for the second half of 2020. Take a look at the docs coming to HBO below:

“The Vow”

Debuting August 23, is an HBO documentary series from Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer that follows a range of people who joined the self-improvement group, NXIVM. The organization has been under siege, with various charges including sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy brought against its highest members – most notably founder Keith Raniere, who was convicted in June 2019 and is currently awaiting sentencing. 

“Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn”

Debuting August 12, directed by Muta’Ali, tells the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a black teenager who was murdered in 1989 by a group of young white men in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Yusuf Hawkins’ death and the official response to it sparked outrage in New York, unleashing a torrent of racial tension and spurring tireless civil rights activism that exposed deep racial prejudices and inequities which continue to plague the country today.    

“Siempre, Luis”

From first-time filmmaker John James, is an inspiring portrait of Luis A. Miranda Jr., a Puerto Rican migrant (and father of Lin-Manuel Miranda) who helped shape New York politics for over three decades. When Luis A. Miranda Jr. left Puerto Rico for New York City in the 1970s, he had big dreams, but little did he know how far he’d go. 

“Crazy, Not Insane”

Directed and produced by Alex Gibney, profiles forensic psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, who has spent her life investigating the interior lives of violent people, working with numerous serial killers including Ted Bundy.  

“Baby God”

Directed by Hannah Olson and executive produced by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, is a shocking examination of the dark legacy of a Las Vegas fertility specialist, the late Dr. Quincy Fortier, who assisted hundreds of couples struggling with difficulty conceiving. 

“The Mystery of DB Cooper”

Directed by John Dower, brings to life the stories of four people believed by their family and friends to be “DB Cooper” a man who hijacked a 727 flying out of Seattle and jumped from the plane over the wilds of Washington State with a parachute and $200,000, never to be heard from again. 

“Alabama Snake”

Directed by Theo Love and produced by Bryan Storkel, explores the story of October 4, 1991, when a violent crime was reported in the sleepy town of Scottsboro, Alabama. Glenn Summerford, a Pentecostal minister, was accused of attempting to murder his wife with a rattlesnake. The details of the investigation and the trial that followed has haunted Southern Appalachia for decades. 

“The Art of Political Murder” 

Directed by Paul Taylor, based on Francisco Goldman’s book of the same name, produced by Teddy Leifer and Regina K. Scully and executive produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, tells the story of the 1998 murder of Guatemalan human rights activist Bishop Juan Gerardi, which stunned a country ravaged by decades of political violence. 


Filmed over the course of five years in Kansas City, is an inspiring chronicle of the lives of four young people and their families as they navigate growing up transgender in America’s heartland. The documentary offers a multi-year, inside perspective on four transgender youths (aged 4, 7, 12, and 15 at the start of filming) as they redefine “coming of age” and share personal realities of how gender expression is reshaping their American families. 

“The Soul of America” 

A documentary film based on Jon Meacham’s 2018 bestseller, illuminates our present-day, fraught political reality by exploring historical challenges of the past such as the women’s suffrage movement, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, McCarthyism, and the struggle to pass Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. 

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