THE creators

MIchael Ajakwe Jr.

Since 1993, this first-generation Nigerian-American has worked on stage with renowned performers like Glynn Turman, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Debbie Allen, Ted Lange, Phil Morris, Ta’Mar, Bill Overton, Robert Ri’chard, Hill Harper, Niecy Nash, Tommy Hicks, Art Evans, Aloma Wright, Gary Sturgis, James Pickens, Tatyana Ali, Marc Coppage, Mo’Nique, Sicily, Ra’ven Larrymore Kelly, Estelle Harris, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Lee Garlington, Kelita Smith, Robert Pine, Shayla Rivera, Gary Anthony Williams, Ralph Carter, Steve Trevino, Deniece Williams, and Charles Dutton.   As a tv and film writer, he’s worked with Martin Lawrence, Greg Kinnear, Tisha Campbell, Charles Barkley, Marc Curry, Tracey Morgan, Tia & Tamera Mowry, Kadeem Hardisson, Brandy, Brian Hooks, Diondre Whitfield, Tim Reid, Richard Lawson, Jackee, Steve Harvey, Eve, Jason Alexander, Ben Stiller, Anthony Anderson, Kimberly Elise, Jo Marie Payton, the late Paul Winfield and 3-time Oscar nominee Djimon Honsou.  He’s also developed TV and film projects for Russell Simmons, Dr. Dre, Bret Ratner, Kim Fields, Reuben Cannon, Norman Howard (nephew of The Three Stooges), Beverly Todd, Vidal Sassoon, ex-NBA great Kenny Smith and Natalie Cole.  Mike has written and directed 9 plays and produced 15 that have garnered 27 NAACP Theater Award Nominations, winning 5.  He is a two-time NAACP Award-winning Playwright/Producer (Company Policy/Ted Lange’s Four Queens, No Trump!), two-time NAACP Award Nominated Director (If You Don’t Believe, Body Language), an Emmy Award-winning TV producer (E! Network’s Talk Soup), and an award-winning filmmaker.  

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mike went to Inglewood’s Morningside High and attended the University of Redlands on an academic scholarship, majoring in English and Political Science, and was named the Most Outstanding Senior of his graduating class.   He paid his way through college working in a movie theater, writing for Redland’s Magazine and freelancing as a sportswriter for the Redlands Daily Facts and Riverside Press Enterprise newspapers. 

In 2000, Company Policy was released, making Mike the first African-American to have a play published in the 21st Century.  In 2001, South Central Stories:  Double or Nothin’, The Ride, Happy Anniversary Punk! – a collection of three critically-acclaimed one-act plays – was published.   His plays have been excerpted in Best Men’s Monologues, Best Women’s Monologue, Best Stage Scenes, and Outstanding Monologs and Scenes of the 90s.  He’s written and/or produced TV shows like Soul Food, The Parkers, Martin, Moesha, Between Brothers, The Brothers Garcia, Built To Last, Sister Sister, Entertainment Tonight, Talk Soup, Steve Harvey’s Big Time, and Eve.   Mike has sold TV pilots to Paramount TV (“The Second Family”) and Warner Bros. TV (“Alley Cats”).   In 2002, Rat Entertainment (Bret Ratner) and Artisan Pictures hired him to write his first film, Crip.
           
From 2000-03, he was the TV Professor for the Bill & Camille Cosby-sponsored Guy Alexander Hanks/Marvin H. Miller TV & Screenwriting Fellowship Program at USC.  Fellows Mike has mentored have gone on to write for shows like Girlfriends, One On One, The Division, My Wife & Kids, The Proud Family, ER, The District, Eve, Fatherhood, Kingpin and Lincoln Heights

In ‘03, he wrote an essay for the “Power & Respect” chapter of the best-selling anthology Souls Of My Brothers.  Also in ‘03, Mike, Jamie Foxx Show creator Bentley Kyle Evans and legendary actress/choreographer Debbie Allen traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to develop the sitcom, Journal Feliz (The Good News), for Picante Pictures.  In ’05, Mike co-created a second sitcom, Mano A Mano (Brother To Brother) for Picante that debuted on the Record Network in Brazil and ran an entire season.   In ‘04, Mike and Picante co-produced Rocket Science & Salsa: The Shayla Rivera Story at the Zephyr Theater in Hollywood.  The sold-out, one-woman show about a Puerto Rican rocket scientist who gave up working for NASA to become a comedian was co-written by Mike and Rivera and directed by Debbie Allen, and was nominated for two NAACP Theater Awards.  In 2002, Mike wrote a play about Motown legends Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell called You’re All I Need To Get By that starred Prince protégé Ta’Mar and attracted everyone from Lakers legend Norm Nixon to Britney Spears.  Mike followed up this success in ’03 when he wrote, directed and produced If You Don’t Believe: A Love Story (Featuring the Songs of Deniece Williams) that starred ex-Fresh Prince of Bel-Air regular Tatyana Ali.   Mike produced the sold-out show with legendary songbird Deniece Williams and the play received 8 NAACP Theater Award Nominations (including Best Director for Mike), winning for Best Musical Director (Scott Allen). Body Language (Featuring the Songs of Patti LaBelle) was originally produced in Los Angeles in 2005 and also played for a week at the 1800-seat Warner Theater in Washington D.C. in 2006.  It received 7 NAACP Theater Award Nominations (including another Best Director nom for Mike), winning again for Best Musical Director (Matilda Haywood) and Best Choreographer (Madonna Grimes). 

Since 2004, Mike has been the Show Writer for the Annual NAACP Theater Awards.

In 2007, Mike adapted his one-act play, Happy Anniversary, Punk!, into a movie, which he also produced and directed.  In just its second film festival, the 24-minute film dealing with Black-on-Black crime won the Jury Prize AND Audience Award for Best Short Film at the Mid-Atlantic Black Film Festival in Norfolk, Virginia.   Mike – who visited Africa for three weeks in 2008 to teach screenwriting workshops to Nigerian filmmakers -- is set to make his feature film debut in the summer with No More Bloodshed – a film he co-wrote that stars Taraji Henson, Tommy Ford, Jason George, Deniece Williams and Mark Christopher Lawrence that is being produced by Pascal Atuma Productions (Only In America, Hurricane in the Rose Garden, My American Nurse).  His original comedy screenplay, “419” won 2nd Place out of 150 submissions at the 2008 Hollywood Black Film Festival Storyteller Competition. 

In 2009, Mike co-created, wrote and sold the tv pilot, Trevino, to American Latino Syndication/LATV Networks.  Starring rising Mexican-American stand-up Steve Trevino, Mike will serve as Head Writer and Executive Producer (along with David Morales and Steve Trevino) of the syndicated sitcom that will debut in September 2010.  But what really stands out for Mike in 2009 is “Who…” -- an original comedy created specifically for the web starring Shoneji Loraine, Nafeesa Monroe and Charles Reese.  The show is the first series to launch the web channel Ajakwetv.com that was started in response to the lack of diversity in web channel programming on the internet (visit www.michaelajakwe.com).

 

© Ajakwe TV 2009