Kerri Grant

Kerri Grant, Ada Twist, Scientist Showrunner

Janet E. Dandridge

Best friends Rosie Revere (Candace Kozak), Ada Twist (Amanda Christine) and Iggy Peck (Nicholas Crovetti) in Ada Twist, Scientist

Courtesy of Netflix

Aerospace engineer Keji Sojobi in the "A Fort of One's Own" episode of Ada Twist, Scientist

Janet E. Dandridge
Fill 1
Fill 1
February 02, 2022
Online Originals

Kerri Grant Opens Minds — and Doors

When an internship at Nickelodeon sparked a passion for animation, the Ada Twist, Scientist showrunner's days as an accounting major were numbered.

Ada Twist, the eight-year-old at the center of the Netflix animated series Ada Twist, Scientist, is a little girl with a big mind. As a child, the same was true of Ada Twist showrunner Kerri Grant, who began writing poetry at an early age as an outlet for her emotions after her family moved from Jamaica to New York City when she was 11.

Although Grant dreamed of following a creative path, her parents, like those of so many immigrant children, wanted her to pursue a practical, financially stable profession. But after two years as an accounting major at George Washington University, Grant's craving for the arts drew her to classes in creative writing and marketing, which led to an internship at the children's programming cable network Nickelodeon.

"As soon as I walked into the offices, which were bright, colorful and playful, I fell in love with the prospect of doing this for a living," Grant says.

Nickelodeon also provided her the opportunity to work with two Black women who held positions in senior management.

"I was lucky to see powerful Black women heading up departments, and that let me know that someday I could do that," she says.

Someday arrived sooner than expected when Grant earned a spot in Nick's writing program, which led to positions as a script supervisor and later a writer on several popular animated series for kids, including Nickelodeon's The Backyardigans and Disney's Elena of Avalor, Mira, Royal Detective and Doc McStuffins.

On Doc McStuffins, Grant worked closely with its creator, Chris Nee, who also created Ada Twist, Scientist, which returned for a second season on January 25. Adapted from a 2016 children's picture book by Andrea Beaty, it chronicles the adventures of the boundlessly curious title character and her two best friends as they use science to solve everyday problems. At the end of each episode, a real-life scientist — such as aerospace engineer Keji Sojobi, pictured above — explains a concept of relevance to their profession. The show is a production of Higher Ground, the Netflix-based company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama.

As with so many areas of the entertainment industry, animation has largely been the province of white men, which has made it difficult for people of color to break in.

Although Grant, who defied the odds to forge a successful career, has seen progress in recent years, more opportunities for underrepresented groups are needed.

"You do need to make a concerted effort to cast a wide net," she says, "and making a purposeful decision to diversify is one of the ways to do that. I would like to see more artists, directors and editors working on shows behind the scenes, because it matters."

As an example, she cites creative discussions regarding the depiction of Ada Twist, her family and other Black characters.

"We had conversations early on about skin tone and hair texture and working hard to get that right," she says.

A lot has gone right for Grant, whose numerous accolades for her work include eight Daytime Emmy Award nominations, a Peabody Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Humanitas Prize.

"It feels humbling, and I never thought I'd be here, especially thinking back to when I was an accounting student," she says. "I feel really grateful to be involved in excellent shows, and I feel extremely lucky, if you look at history and evolution, to see that the stories being told are so bold and rich and breaking barriers." 

More articles celebrating Black History Month.

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