HBO picks up “Brown Girls” series set in Chicago

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Nabila Hossain and Sonia Denis in “Brown Girls”

There is a bridge in Trenton NJ, that boldly says, “What Trenton Makes, The World Takes.” The same could be said for Chicago when it comes to entertainment.

Brown Girls, a web series made by Chicago-based writer Fatimah Asghar and director Samantha Bailey, has been picked up by HBO. The show, an untitled version of Brown Girls, will be produced by 3Arts and MXN Entertainment.

The series, which premiered on OpenTV in March, is centered on the friendship between Leila (Nabila Hossain), a gay Muslim woman, and Patricia (Sonia Denis), a young black woman, as they explore their identities and contextualize their relationships.

Set in Chicago, the series will be translated to HBO with this same DIY spirit.

”It’s a city that is very mercurial, resourceful, and sly in a way that I love,” Asghar says. “I want to carry some of that over to television. We don’t want a show that is flashy and smooth. We want a show that is gritty. That has this kind of realness to it.”

In an interview with Jezebel in February, Bailey said comparisons to Broad City and Girls weren’t entirely accurate, noting that Brown Girls “fall[s] in with Awkward Black Girl, with Insecure and Atlanta. These are young people of color who are fully involved in telling their version of their story.”

“People started hearing the title and being like, ‘Is it like Girls?’” Asghar said in an interview with THE FADER. “And I was like, ‘No! I haven’t seen Girls.’ If anything, my beef with it is through my friends, [who are] women of color let down by the series.”

This team, comprised almost exclusively of women, LGBTQ artists and people of color, has a different vision in mind.

Bailey has also garnered attention for another OpenTV web series You’re So Talented, as well as an upcoming partnership with Chance the Rapper and Jamila Woods, coordinating a music video they hope will be directed by a high school student, in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools.

Writer Fatima Asghar and director Samantha BaileyAsghar is best known for her popular contemporary poetry.

Bailey tells Elle that music will be an important part of the HBO series, noting, “Chicago has an amazing music scene and we were lucky to include a bunch of artists in our series. All but one were Chicago-based and all of them were women of color.”

This marks HBO’s third high-profile web series pickup, following Issa Rae’s Insecure (originally the YouTube series Awkward Black Girl) and Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair’s High Maintenance (originally on Vimeo).

You can watch the rest of the Brown Girls here.

Follow colin Costello on Twitter @colincostello10

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