Disney Channel is bringing its latest family-friendly franchise to film in Chicago. The network recently granted a series order to Saturdays, a coming-of-age roller-skating comedy created by 17-year-old Black-ish star Marsai Martin and her Genius Entertainment and writer-executive producer Norman Vance Jr. (Roll Bounce, Girlfriends). Production is slated to begin in May for premiere on Disney Channel, and sources tell SCREEN this series will be filming in Chicago. Filming is expected to begin on or near May 2 and run through mid-September, with an order for 15 half-hour episodes.
Saturdays centers on Paris Johnson, played by Danielle Jalade (Yes Day), who considers roller skating to be part of her soul – she breathes it in and makes it a lifestyle. She lives for the weekends because that’s when she gets to go to her sanctuary, the neon-lit Saturdays, a seemingly magical wood floor roller-rink where the impossible often manifests. In this wondrous place, Paris can hang with her best friends, choreograph exhilarating routines on wheels, banter with her rivals, navigate life with her DJ brother London and work on becoming a “Golden” – a member of Saturday’s skating elite, chosen by the mystical owner of the rink, The Duchess.
Also starring are Omar Gooding (Family Time) as Cal Johnson, Golden Brooks (Girlfriends) as Deb Johnson, Jermaine Harris (The Map of Tiny Perfect Things) as London Johnson and Daria Johns (Nappily Ever After) as Simone.
Black-ish fans may be asking if Marsai Martin will be appearing in the cast of Saturdays as well as producing? As of now, Martin is solely listed as co-creator and executive producer of the series, and is not expected to appear as an actor, though there is certainly plenty of time for that to change in the months ahead.
Vance and Martin executive produce with Nicole Dow and Joshua and Carol Martin (Little). Charles Stone III (Drumline, black-ish) directed the pilot.
Get to Know Marsai Martin and Norman Vance Jr.
Marsai Martin is best known for portraying Diane Johnson on black-ish, a role which has earned her seven NAACP Image Awards. Martin starred in and executive produced the 2019 feature film Little. Genius Entertainment, founded by Martin alongside Joshua and Carol Martin, creates stories meant to inspire, illuminate, and celebrate the diverse experiences of girls and people of color.
Veteran TV and film writer Norman Vance Jr.’s credits include Moesha and Girlfriends. He wrote and produced several films including Roll Bounce, Beauty Shop and Pride. He most recently served as Co-Executive Producer on Our Kind Of People and as a Supervising Producer on the series American Soul, Swagger and Queen Sugar.
The production team is beginning to take shape. Illinois veteran filmmaker Brett Hays is expected to join the series. Hays was most recently Unit Production Manager of the CW reboot The 4400, which filmed in Chicago for much of last year. Skot Bright, who served as UPM of the Saturdays pilot that shot in Los Angeles, is also expected to be a core member of the production in Chicago.
“We’re thrilled to be in business with Marsai, Norman, Nicole, Joshua, and Carol in bringing this adventure to our viewers,” said Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television. “We know that audiences will fall in love with Paris, her friends and her family as they share in the love, laughter and music in this fun-filled world of roller skating.”
Be sure to check back here at SCREEN Magazine as this exciting new series forges ahead into production. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.