How Spelman Alum Paige Simpson Brings Diversity to TV and Mentors the Next Generation of Black Talent
Meet Paige Simpson, the millennial Black woman and Hollywood executive who has contributed to some of the most notable binge-able content in recent years.
As the Vice President of Television at 21 Laps Entertainment, the production company behind hits like Stranger Things and Arrival, Simpson has dedicated her work to creating space for more diverse content on mainstream television.
For the last decade, Simpson has been a behind-the-scenes creative visionary, contributing to some of the most sought-after content across streaming platforms. She previously led television at Will Packer Media and Scrap Paper Pictures and was an integral part of shows like Ambitions for OWN, Bigger for BET+, and Yearly Departed for Amazon Prime.
When it comes to her success story, the Spelman alum credits mentors like her mother and industry leaders like Nina Yang, Forest Whitaker, Amy Israel, Viola Davis, Rachel Brosnahan, and Shawn Levy for giving her “valuable insight” that helped in the foundation of her career.
“I remember selling my very first project in the room and how rewarding that felt,” Simpson told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“I had been working on it for a few months with the writers and internally we knew this was something that could be awesome but you always question if the buyer will see what you see. When they said yes, I almost cried!”
Her most recent show to get purchased from Netflix, Yasuke is the story of a Black samurai that could star Lupin actor, Omar Sy. The anime version was released on the streaming giant last year.
When it comes to her advocacy for diversity in Hollywood, it’s something Simpson credits to her “tribe.”
“As long as you have a tribe by your side things can and will continue to move in the right direction,” she said. “It is easier today than it was a few years ago because not only are people talking about it but they know we are here to hold them accountable.”
Dishing on her film Yasuke, which is in development, Simpson is beyond excited to share what could be the first portrayal of an African samurai on mainstream television.
“Yasuke is such an epic character in history that many don’t know about,” she said. “This project is one that will show the deep and beautiful relationship between an African slave and a Japanese warlord.”
“Something we’ve never seen before.”
“It’s important to us that the historical facts are accurate but also that we show these two men with complicated pasts, coming together for family,” she continued. “And we are so excited to see an African Samurai! This story will provide action and character in ways we yearn for.”
When it comes to her advice for the next generation of Black Hollywood executives, Simpson says, “Have an opinion and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”