Born in Los Angeles and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Mara Brock Akil returned to LA to pursue her passion for writing after receiving a degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She was first staffed on South Central, and then went on to write for Moesha, before quickly ascending to supervising producer on The Jamie Foxx Show. It was during that time Mara developed her first original series, Girlfriends, which aired for eight seasons on UPN and The CW. She then developed the hit spin-off, The Game, which ran for three seasons on The CW before being cancelled and brought back to life on BET, where it debuted to a record-breaking 7.7 million viewers.
Earning historic ratings in a television landscape where few other shows featuring black leads existed, cemented Mara’s industry powerhouse status. 2011 marked a pivotal stage for not only Mara, but also her husband and producing partner, Salim Akil, and their company Akil Productions. It was a banner year with the release of Jumping the Broom, followed by 2012’s remake of Sparkle.
The success of both films and the continued draw of The Game, led to an unprecedented multi-year overall deal with BET. Mara used the opportunity to create her passion project, Being Mary Jane, the first scripted drama in BET’s 30-year history. The 90-minute movie debuted to over 4 million viewers, and was immediately commissioned for a full series order. The show that Mara once thought could never be made helped launch the network’s scripted programming. After serving as showrunner for the first three seasons, Mara transitioned to Series Consultant.
Named by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the top 50 Showrunners five years in a row, Mara’s profile continues to rise. Most recently she was named as one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “Women in Entertainment Power 100.” She’s also been featured in the New York Times, honored by Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards, and winner of multiple NAACP Image Awards. With the flood of media attention and a loyal fan base, Mara and Salim have set their sights on larger platforms, signing a three-year overall deal at Warner Bros. Television in 2015. Under the Akils’ deal with Warner Brothers Studios, they have two pilot commitments underway for the 2016/2017 pilot season: Documenting Love and Black Lightning, which is based on the DC Comics character.
As an active philanthropist and mentor, Mara dedicates much of her time to numerous charities and non-profits including: The Underground Museum in Los Angeles, The Studio Museum in Harlem, LAXArt, The Samburu Project, and the Dance Theater of Harlem. In 2014, Girls Inc. honored Mara for her work inspiring and advocating for girls everywhere. In addition to being a board member on Northwestern University’s School of Communication National Advisory Council, Mara serves on the advisory board of the Humanitas Prize and the board of directors for the Writers Guild of America, West. Mara will be inducted into the Medill Hall of Achievement for the positive impact she has made in television and film, this fall (2017).
Her greatest accomplishment is raising two smart and confident sons with Salim.