Why Nicole Dow Is Betting On Originals, Exploring the New Adult Genre as Genius Productions’ Head of TV

Popular and pre-existing IP has reigned supreme in Hollywood as most studios and streamers look to continue the success of former franchises for an easy win. But that’s not a trend Nicole Dow is aiming to pursue. 

As the head of TV for Marsai Martin’s Genius Productions, her formula isn’t overly complicated. Dow breaks down their development slate into three specific categories: kids and family, young adult, and new adult. 

The latter of which is a less explored territory. The genre first came about within the last 15 year — and  only recently gained steam online with authors like Colleen Hoover (“It Ends With Us”) and Casey McQuiston (“Red, White, & Royal Blue”) leading the charge. As the name explains, new adult covers the emerging adult generation between the ages of 18-29. 

“It’s the first foray into the world where your ego comes smashing into reality, or the cringe-worthy stuff that happens from making bad choices because you just don’t have the experience,” Dow defines, adding that she and Martin have had success when it comes to developing and pitching their stories.

“That’s what Marsai has been watching for a few years now because when you’re 14,15, you’re not really watching shows of 14, 15 year olds. You’re watching one bump up. So, when we were just talking about stories that she would like to produce — it was not ignoring the YA at all — but it just seems to be just a smidge easier to have the girls be 18 to 22 as a protagonist,” she clarified.

The conversation surrounding the new adult genre’s popularity in literature has taken shape online. However, Dow is admittedly not an “IP happy” executive.  

“Number one, people that love books, they love the books so when you have to find a television or film version of that, it’s never as satisfying because of the way you consume things,” said Dow. “But I think that when we have ideas that come from the purview of a young adult or a girl that’s 13 to 19 years old and they happen to be a person of color, still having to convince the powers that be that this is an actual story that needs to get told is still a rough road.”

Dow climbed the ranks in Hollywood, first starting as a producer at Common’s Freedom Road productions where she worked on various projects including the TV movie “An American Girl Story: Melody 1963 – Love Has to Win” and “America Divided.” She also stewarded “The Chi” for Freedom Road before her departure. She’s made a career of telling Black stories, but the difference between her work then and what she’s doing now is there’s less focus on trauma to make more joyful stories. 

“When you tell [YA genre] from the point of view of a black girl or brown girl, the road gets more and more narrow because we don’t do trauma, we don’t do PTSD. We don’t do any of that,” She shares. “Our road closes from here. We keep just narrowing it, because of all the things that we won’t do.”

“Anything that you’ve seen a white boy and a dog do, bring to us because when you flip the sex and the race, everything changes and nothing changes at all. But it’s still a very specific way to look at the world that we haven’t fully explored yet.”

“Saturdays” serves as Genius Productions’ first major step in Dow’s vision for the TV slate. For a company that was largely known for its popular including Martin’s talent like “Little” and Paramount+’s “Fantasy Football,” defining what stories would make a homerun would be a large undertaking. Aside from the series, Dow is also working on an animated sneaker-related project and “Spikes,” which is about girls running track and is set at Netflix.

Hailing from Norman Vance Jr., “Saturdays” follows Paris Johnson (Danielle Jalade), who considers roller skating to be part of her soul and lives to go with her friends Simone (Daria Johns) and Ari (Peyton Basnight) on weekends to her seemingly magical roller-rink, Saturdays. Omar Gooding Jr. and Golden Brooks also star. 

What’s important about the show, Dow shares, is not only the race and exterior appearance of the girls, but also their relationship. 

“For so long, I think Hollywood has done a job of just showing girls relationships so often, and for a very long time, people throw a boy in the middle and be like, fight over the boys. I’m just like, ‘you guys don’t know, girls at all.’ Because if you did, you would know that boys are like number 87 on the list of things that they’re talking about,” she said. 

“We wanted to have a show where we’re showing the love story between girls because these are the relationships that inform women and who they’re going to be as they get older. These are the ones that basically fuel you and push you and encourage you. It’s that love that you go to and seek when you’re in trying times, when you’re second guessing yourself,” Dow continued. “When those relationships are in trouble, that’s when you’re down and out for the count. We just really wanted to show about what that relationship looks like and we just kind of really put it in a fun space.”

“Saturdays” is currently airing on Disney Channel.

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