She’s Gotta Have It was Spike Lee’s debut film, directed when he was just 29 years old. The film, released in 1986, told the story of a young woman (Tracy Camilla Johns) who enjoys sex and juggles three different men at once. The film, which came three years prior to Lee’s signature film Do the Right Thing and produced in 12 days with a budget of just $185,000, wasn’t a huge box office hit - but did announce the arrival of a major talent of the era. It even featured Lee himself as a supporting actor, as the Mars Blackmon character that he would later reprise in Nike commercials with Michael Jordan.
Lee has continued to direct films in the 30 years since, through highs (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, The 25th Hour), lows (She Hate Me, Red Hook Summer, his Oldboy remake) and numerous films on which opinion is sharply divided (including his most recent film, last year’s Chicago violence musical epic Chi-raq.) And now, it sounds like Lee is going to be revisiting his first movie.
Netflix has teamed with Lee on a TV version of She’s Gotta Have It, giving the series a ten-episode order. According to Deadline, Lee will direct all ten episodes of the series, the idea for which was first set up two years ago at Showtime. There’s no word on casting or release dates yet. According to the report, Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It will apply the concept to a contemporary setting. Lee discussed the project in a uniquely punctuated press release:
"Now With The Passing (August 8th) Of The 30th Anniversary, It’s A Gift That Keeps On Giving. We Are Getting An Opportunity To Revisit These Memorable Characters Who Will Still Be Relevant And Avant Garde 3 Decades Later. With All That Said It Was My Wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, Producer In Her Own Right, Who Had The Vision To Take My Film From The Big Screen And Turn It Into An Episodic Series. It Had Not Occurred To Me At All. Tonya Saw It Plain As Day. I Didn’t."
The She's Gotta Have It TV series sounds like an intriguing project, all things considered. Aside from a pair of very long (and very good) documentaries about Hurricane Katrina for HBO, Lee has not worked in television or longform storytelling, and perhaps working in a different format will serve to reinvigorate Lee’s career.
There’s also the undoubted fact that the streaming revolution has given serious short shrift to filmmakers and stories of color, and Lee's series (along with Netflix's upcoming movie-turned TV series Dear White People) is a step in the right direction. Lee also will have an opportunity to apply the concepts of the original story to a very different time, three decades later.
There’s no release date yet for Netflix’s version of She’s Gotta Have It.