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Reese Witherspoon to Produce Iranian Family Comedy

Witherspoon’s production company has added yet another TV series to its busy slate, and this time it will tackle undocumented immigration and American identity.
Americanized Sara Saedi
By  · Published on October 15th, 2018

A brand new series centered on the lives of immigrants in America has been commissioned for television. Yes, I’m rejoicing that more of these shows are being brought to life! This time, the project in question even sports the added bonus of having an extra buzzworthy name attached as producer. Reese Witherspoon, who has been extremely active in procuring and spearheading feminist media at seemingly breakneck speed these days, is executive producing a comedy for ABC based on writer Sara Saedi’s memoir “Americanized: Rebel Without A Green Card.”

As reported by Variety, Saedi’s life story of growing up as an undocumented immigrant in the 1990s will be turned into a single-camera series courtesy of Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine. “Americanized” is a quirky look into the life of an Iranian-American girl who is coming of age in a world of teenage concerns such as self-image, independence, and the conundrum of boys and dating. But her story is a tad different from your supposedly quintessential American teenager’s. Because although Saedi has lived in the United States since she was two years old, she finds out much later that her family runs the risk of deportation if they don’t succeed in applying for green cards.

The show will be a distinct dive into the cultural mores of a Middle Eastern household while it attempts to “[explore] the universal truths that bond every type of ‘American’ family.” Saedi herself will script and executive produce the series.

This adaptation of Saedi’s memoir finds a place among Hello Sunshine’s already brimming slate of upcoming projects. The company has at least two films and five other series in the works, including the second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies, three series for Apple’s streaming service, three Facebook Watch shows, a Hulu project, and something for Amazon. This makes the “Americanized” comedy series Hello Sunshine’s first broadcast venture.

Witherspoon, ever the producer extraordinaire, continues to make her mark on the entertainment industry by championing vital stories from people from all walks of life. ABC’s take on “Americanized” actually fits in perfectly with a previous acquisition made by Hello Sunshine that’s actually a feature-length documentary. Alongside the film based on the life of tennis legend Martina Navratilova, which seeks to blend biographical elements and a coming-of-age narrative, Saedi’s story may just be one of Witherspoon’s most important coups yet.

Saedi used to work as a creative executive for ABC Daytime and won a Daytime Emmy for her TV short What If. She is further known in Hollywood for penning TV episodes, working at The Goodwin Games and iZombie. Saedi has since switched over to writing fiction novels, publishing two books in her “Never Ever” series, which is a YA fantasy adventure that functions as a teen-oriented Peter Pan retelling.

Nevertheless, her most gripping read happens to be her most personal story, just due to the fact that her writing style is so easy to engage with. Saedi effortlessly adopts a distinctive and relatable narrative voice for her self-proclaimed “YA memoir,” honing in on an ideally personable tone that’s concise while never coming across as particularly monotonous, stuffy or sluggish. Her language is laden with humor that enhances rather than trivializes the circumstances of the memoir.

“Americanized,” which actually functions both as a personal account and a crash course on Iranian culture and geopolitics told through Saedi’s perspective, is a legitimately light and fun read…to a point. Of course, the elephant in the room of the torturous immigration process looms over the engaging and lovely household at the center of the book.

“Americanized” banks on the perceived Western “normalcy” of Saedi’s teenage rebellion amidst her and her family’s various anxieties and fears. This is made more profound through the affection that she shows her family in general. The book highlights a plethora of wonderful family dynamics that would play excellently on TV.

Really, considering ABC’s prior comedy successes such as Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, it’s easy to see how Saedi’s story could be in reliable hands. Both Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat engage in separate cultural issues in vibrant and off-beat ways. There’s a celebration of African-American and Chinese-American visibility within the context of these deceptively fluffier stories, all of which happen to add lighthearted but conspicuously grounded narratives to the onscreen canon that people of color are a part of.

Hence, “Americanized” already fits into the simple narrative structures that ABC is well-versed in navigating and turning into hits. Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat (and even the nine-year-old Modern Family that just began airing its 10th season on the network) have all been nominated and decorated with different accolades, driving the point home that there is a winning formula that also prioritizes variety in voices.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)