Michael Ajakwe Jr.

Title
Founder/Executive Director
Company
Los Angeles Web Series Festival
Bio
Since 1993, this first-generation Nigerian-American has worked in the theatre with renowned performers like Emmy-winner Glynn Turman, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Debbie Allen, Ted Lange, Phil Morris, Robert Ri’chard, Hill Harper, Niecy Nash, Tommy Hicks, Tracee Ellis Ross, Art Evans, Gary Sturgis, James Pickens, Tatyana Ali, Marc Coppage, Estelle Harris, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Lee Garlington, Robert Pine, Shayla Rivera, Gary Anthony Williams, Ralph Carter, Deniece Williams, Charles Dutton and Oscar winner Mo’Nique.
As a tv and film writer, he’s worked with Martin Lawrence, Greg Kinnear, Sherman Hemsley, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Charles Barkley, Marc Curry, Tracey Morgan, Tia & Tamera Mowry, Kadeem Hardisson, Kelita Smith, Brandy, Diondre Whitfield, Ali Landry, Kelly Perrine, Tim Reid, Tommy Davidson, Ernest Thomas, Richard Lawson, Jackee, Steve Harvey, Steve Trevino, Valery Ortiz, Eve, Paul Winfield, and 3-time Oscar nominee Djimon Honsou. As a live events show writer, he’s written for Anthony Anderson, Kimberly Elise, Jo Marie Payton, L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti, ex-L.A. Police Chief Bernard Parks, NAACP National President Benjamin Todd Jealous, Jason Alexander, Ben Stiller, and the NAACP Theater Awards (’04-08). He’s also developed TV and/or 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 “The Jet” Smith and Natalie Cole. Mike has written and directed 9 plays and produced 16 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), an award-winning filmmaker (Happy Anniversary, Punk!) and a trailblazing web tv creator (Ajakwetv.com’s Who...)

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mike graduated from Inglewood’s Morningside High and attended the University of Redlands on an academic scholarship. He earned degrees in English and Political Science and was named Most Outstanding Senior of his graduating class. He paid his way through college working in a movie theater, and covering news and sports for Redland’s Magazine, the Redlands Daily Facts and the Riverside Press Enterprise.

In 2000, the release of Company Policy made 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 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), Warner Bros. TV (Alley Cats) and LATV/American Latino Syndication (Trevino). In 2002, Rat Entertainment (Bret Ratner) and Artisan Pictures hired him to write his first film, Crip. He’s also written films on Major League Baseball free agency messiah Curt Flood, NBA substance abuse success story John Lucas, and the only Black quarterback to win the Super Bowl Doug Williams.

From 2000-03 and in ‘09, 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, Little Bill, 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 Evans and legendary actress/choreographer Debbie Allen traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to develop the sitcom, Journal Feliz (The Good News), for Picante Entertainment. In ’05, Mike co-created a second sitcom, Mano A Mano (Brother To Brother) for Picante that ran on Brazilian tv for 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 comic was co-written by Mike and Rivera, directed by Debbie Allen, and nominated for two NAACP Theater Awards. In 2002, Mike channelled Motown legends Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 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 next 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. Co-produced with iconic songbird Deniece Williams, the play received 8 NAACP Theater Award Nominations (including Best Director), winning for Best Musical Director (Scott Allen). Next came Body Language (Featuring the Songs of Patti LaBelle). Originally produced in Los Angeles in 2005, it later ran at the 1800-seat Warner Theater in Washington D.C. in 2006. It received 7 NAACP Theater Award Nominations (including Best Director), winning again for Best Musical Director (Matilda Haywood) and Best Choreographer (Madonna Grimes).

In 2007, he adapted his one-act play, Happy Anniversary, Punk! into a movie that he produced and directed. In just its second film festival, the 23-minute courtroom drama about 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.

Invited to Africa for three weeks in 2008 to teach screenwriting workshops to Nigerian filmmakers, he was commissioned by Pascal Atuma Productions to write the noir thriller No More Bloodshed – a film starring Taraji P. Henson, Tommy Ford, Jason George, Deniece Williams and Mark Christopher Lawrence. Mike closed out 2008 with a Beacon of Light Award from the City of Inglewood, California—the town where he grew up—as it celebrated its Centennial. The other two honorees were Oscar-nominated director John Singleton and legendary gospel duo Mary Mary.

In 2009, Mike was reunited with his Martin roots when he performed punch up writing duties on the Martin Lawrence/Bentley Evans/Jeff Franklin-produced sitcom Love That Girl starring Tatyana Ali and Phil Morris. Mike was also a punch up writer on the new T.D. Jakes-produced comedy One Love starring Sherman Hemsley, Carl Payne, Marc Curry, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Kym Whitley and Jackee. Mike also created an original comedy series for the Internet. Who… is the first series to launch his new web channel—www.Ajakwetv.com. In March 2010, Mike started the world’s first all-web series festival when he succeeded in launching the Los Angeles Web Series Festival at the Stage 52 Theater in Los Angles (www.lawebfest.com).